December 21, 2012

It isn't the guns. It is the stupid.

God knows I find Joe Scarborough annoying and never watch his show.  His occasional moments of lucidity don't make up for the rest.  And that also applies to his conversion to the gun control side.  But here, I was more listening to the Republican mouthpiece for the NRA, and have to say that Joe is more right here than the doofus.  And you can see the NRA speak here--1) talking about guns is "politicizing" a tragedy. 2) Whatever we say, we can never say that any particular "gun" is a problem.  The problem has to be something else--video games, movies.  His mom.

Meanwhile, here is a little sanity on the suggestion that all of these people are just mentally ill--or at least, mentally ill in any technical way.
But there is overwhelming epidemiological evidence that the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States  can be attributed to people with mental illness.
Again, I am not saying that the only problem here is guns.  I am not convinced that anyone needs a Bushmaster AR 15 for any legitimate reason beyond just liking the gun.  Nor am I convinced that the Second Amendment was really meant to be a license for everyone to have as many guns as they want.  That "well regulated militia" part just seems to have disappeared.

But by all means, let's fund mental health treatment, and we should do that even if doing so doesn't stop any shootings.  We should do that because it is the right thing to do.  And we can talk about video games and films.  I am unsure their impact, but have no problem with that discussion.  But we also have to talk about angry white males and we have to talk about guns.

December 19, 2012

Does the NRA defend hunters?

Just read this (A Moderate NRA - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast) and was reminded that my early years with the NRA (yes, I was a Junior Member) were all about hunting, and hunter's safety.  As this post suggests, an NRA devoted to that would be more moderate on a lot of environmental issues even if they were still pretty conservative on access to guns.

But they aren't.  I get the sense that the NRA is really only about defending the right to own guns that are about killing people.

And that is a shame.

More on this idea of privatizing security

From Alan Jacobs, via Ta-Nehisi Coates:  ('Order at Universal Gunpoint' - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic):

But what troubles me most about this suggestion -- and the general More Guns approach to social ills -- is the absolute abandonment of civil society it represents. It gives up on the rule of law in favor of a Hobbesian "war of every man against every man" in which we no longer have genuine neighbors, only potential enemies. You may trust your neighbor for now -- but you have high-powered recourse if he ever acts wrongly.
Whatever lack of open violence may be procured by this method is not peace or civil order, but rather a standoff, a Cold War maintained by the threat of mutually assured destruction. Moreover, the person who wishes to live this way, to maintain order at universal gunpoint, has an absolute trust in his own ability to use weapons wisely and well: he never for a moment asks whether he can be trusted with a gun. Of course he can! (But in literature we call this hubris.)
Is this really the best we can do? It might be if we lived in, say, the world described by Cormac McCarthy in The Road. But we don't. Our social order is flawed, but by no means bankrupt. Most of us live in peace and safety without the use of guns. It makes more sense to try to make that social order safer and safer, more and more genuinely peaceful, rather than descend voluntarily into a world governed by paranoia, in which one can only feel safe -- or, really, "safe" -- with cold steel strapped to one's ribcage.
As I have said, I think this is more about community than guns, per se.  As I posted on FB a few minutes ago, this is part and parcel of the anti-tax mantra that has nothing to do with job creation, but everything to do with disconnecting from the community and the social contract.  You want clean air?  Suck it up.  You want lighted streets?  Pull out your checkbook.  Same for maintained parks.

Of course, this breaks down if you are female and pregnant, and not ready to have a child.  You are not on your own there--sadly unless you want to keep the child.  But if you want safe schools?  Go buy a gun and prepared to shoot someone.  

December 18, 2012

On Gun control and community

Like many Americans, I have been thinking about this latest mass shooting.  Clearly the dynamic has changed since Friday, and some of that is probably good.  I am not completely sure why the 20 dead kids are that much more tragic than the 6 dead adults (excluding the shooter, of course, though that is also tragic).  Certainly no less tragic than the KC Chief player shooting the mother of his child and then himself to leave that child parentless.

But that aside, one thing I really like is that the conversation in certain circles is really honest and thoughtful.  Some liberals and progressives are genuinely asking about gun control and not just assuming that it is automatically going to help.  Josh Marshall asked about studies that purport to show lower violence in states with more restriction (can't find the link, sorry).  James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg are engaging with the idea that gun control may not be able to do what we want.  Talking points published this informed discussion (I think posted this the other day) on the changing nature of the gun culture, and that Fallows link also lists some reader responses trying to educate the non-gun public on the perils of restricting scary looking guns (as evidently the assault weapon ban did) rather than anything meaningful.

There has been more than our share of stupidity.  Mike Huckabee and James Dobson have both claimed that we are witnessing the result of moral decline, and Megan McCardle evidently (I didn't read the entire thing) suggested that we teach our kids to rush gunmen.  Ugh.  Tennessee and Michigan both moved to allow teachers to arm themselves in classrooms.  Double ugh.

But around the periphery of this discussion, I think, is a discussion about community.  I think it is completely reasonable to suggest that gun restrictions are no more helpful to society than our war on drugs--though I am not sure I completely agree.  But there are absolutely legitimate 2nd amendment issues at play here--regardless of what liberals believe.  I get that.  But the suggestion that teachers need to arm themselves struck a chord about community, or the lack there of.

Consider it this way.  On one hand, we are being told by conservatives that gun restrictions won't work and should not be used--but many of those same conservatives are also pushing to reduce elements of our community fabric.  Less money for cops and firemen--and of course less money for public health and mental health facilities.  In that context, telling the teacher to arm themselves sounds more like outsourcing than some Rambo approach to teaching.  It sounds, to my ear, as conservatives saying, "we won't pay for those things that might help, and we absolutely won't give up our right to purchase whatever crazy gun or bullet we want--but we will tell you that you are on your own and you better provide your own security."

Perfectly reasonable, as many of my conservative friends have said, to suggest that gun control simply won't make us safer.  But less reasonable to then ignore that Republicans are purposefully cutting programs that might make us more safe and which have nothing to do with guns.  Mental health professionals have told me that assistance for families dealing with mental illness is often one of the first budget cuts.  Putting more cops on the street is unthinkable in a context where raising taxes just a few percentage points is harder than getting authorization to invade a country.  And think about all of those health clinics that have closed over the past two decades.  Not saying that all of those in place would make us immune from school shootings, but those are policies that have a track record of helping communities be safer.

Focusing on the guns misses that broader connection, I think.  Part of our battle here is between conservatives who really don't want a broader "we are all in this together" and liberals who, however misguided on banning handguns (for example), who believe that that individual right is running straight into a crowd of innocent people.

December 16, 2012

More guns? Really?

Well, here we are again.  Another mass shooting.  Another discussion where people on the right say that "it isn't the right time to talk about gun violence or control," and another time where we decide to discuss only the issues of mental health treatment.  And I get that part, especially, and think that we need to devote far more resources to mental health and general health treatment.

But the right has already said that we need more guns in the mix.  Michigan just authorized more guns, and Nevada wants to add more.  Oklahoma authorized more legalized carry and on the talk shows, idiots like Louis Gohmert said that all of this would be better if the Principal had a gun in her office.  (Protection Or Peril? Gun Possession Of Questionable Value In An Assault, Study Finds).

A), as I posted on Facebook, I am tired of any discussion that includes the NRA.  They revealed themselves to be irresponsible when they defended everything from cop killer bullets to guns that could evade x-ray, and then catapulted the anti-government movement with the "jack booted thug" name for the ATF.  They aren't the voice of reasonable and responsible gun owners.  They may have been at one time, but no longer.

B) Mental illness may be a big factor here, but we need to stop assuming that because some white kid goes shooting that it is mental illness and not some other factor of privilege and resentment.  Easier, I guess, to believe that only mentally ill people would do this kind of evil thing, but we know from history that sane people can do amazingly awful things.

C) We have to be able to talk about reducing some access to mass killing machines.  This TPM reader talks about the slide from the NRA defending hunting rights to the gun culture of today--which is paranoid, about hoarding guns, and actually sells the idea that you should buy a gun to protect yourself because a Black president is dangerous to you.  That people can easily buy Kevlar vests, clips that hold unbelievable amount of rounds, and bullets that are far more dangerous--and do so with ease--should bother all of us.  Including gun owners.

D) And my most amazing anger is reserved for idiots like Mike Huckabee, who famously already blamed this last shooting on "removing God from the classroom."  Hey, fuckwad, if your God can be removed from the classroom by a bureaucrat or elderly justice, what kind of God is he or she?  Or is he or she the kid of God who pouts because his privilege has been revoked, and so decides to let 20 children die in a fit of spite?  Unbelievable stupidity, and Mike Huckabee is still talked about as a GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE!  Jesus Christ.  Surely Christians can think some of this through.

I am tired of guns, and I am really tired of people who seem to worship guns.

December 11, 2012

Workers march on the Michigan capitol

Smitty sent me these images from this morning's protest.  Votes matter.  Especially when you vote for Republicans who would rather protect the rich than anything else.  

The attack on workers continues in Michigan

It would be funny if it weren't so serious.  The national republican party justified voting against the UN Treaty on the rights of the Disabled because several of them suggested that the Senate should not ratify treaties during the lame duck session.  In Michigan, state Republicans decided that the lame duck was a perfect time to gut the unions that have built the middle class.  Our friend Smitty has more on this, and I just found this Youtube of a very angry Democratic senator speaking very eloquently about the people who will be harmed by this bill.

Conservatives have won over the last 30 years in their attacks on unions.  It started with Reagan taking on the air traffic controllers union and has culminated in this most recent attack on public sector unions.  I am constantly amazed to hear most of my conservative friends bash unions as corrupt and encouraging laziness instead of hard work.  But not one of them has explained how lower wages will actually help our economy.  We have seen wages stagnate at the lower middle class and working class level for the last 30 years.  Lower wages have not stopped outsourcing.  They have not made us more competitive, nor reduced poverty.

These moves have simply made the rich richer.  They have made the worker less safe (about which my Republican friends seem to care little), and they have served to whittle down benefits and pensions.  Contract, as it turns out, is only unassailable when it is about executive bonuses, not about teacher pensions.  Conservatives have appealed to some kind of resentment culture, and appealed effectively.  My conservative friends resent the idea that a laborers might make a good wage doing unremarkable, or unglamorous work.  Teachers, nurses, auto-workers, firefighters, bureaucrats--all of them should not make too much money.  God forbid they make a wage that allows them to purchase goods and services and contribute to the broader economy.

No, as the Walmart model shows us, better that the worker be paid so little that he or she has to rely on food stamps and Medicaid for food and healthcare.  And better, savagely, to then lobby to reduce both programs.

There is a vein of cruelty in the conservative mind that I think most conservatives are afraid to acknowledge.  Cruelty toward pregnant women, gays, and minorities--and as Michigan and Wisconsin demonstrate, toward people who work for a living.

December 7, 2012

Senate Republicans block treaty on the disabled--led by the religious right

Good example of everything that is wrong with the religious right's approach to knowledge and policy.  (Why the US just rejected a treaty based on its own laws - Quartz).  Religious conservatives objected to this treaty (based on the ADA) because many feared it would infringe on homeschoolers and/or encourage abortions of disabled fetuses.  I honestly don't understand how one could legitimately fear either, and neither did most adults in the room.

This is a good example of religious conservatives pushing fringe and conspiracy theories and a great example of how far to the right the GOP has moved in the last 16 years.  On the floor for the vote, was former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole.  Dole is in ill health and left the hospital to try and lobby for this ratification vote--after all he worked this treaty for years.  But for 38 Republicans, Bob Dole was part of the establishment who would surrender American sovereignty to the evil UN.  We often joke that Ronald Reagan could not get elected in this context, but the party may be shifting so far to the right that even George W. Bush may have trouble with the base today.

Either way it is sad for both people of faith and for our public policy.

November 28, 2012

The GOP's disdain for the poor

I almost titled this, "the GOP's war on poor people," but decided that we are using the phrase "war on" far too many times to indicate something where people are not shot with guns or drones.  War is something else.

But the fact does remain, that the GOP continues to make life harder on the poor.  Here in Oklahoma, our Governor Fallin joins other Republican governors in rejecting both the expansion of Medicaid and the option to create a state healthcare exchange.  Both appear to be more about their ongoing battle with Obama and less to do with any heart-felt principled belief.  For all the talk about "unfunded mandates," both of these programs could be funded, and would have allowed thousands of Oklahomans access to healthcare.

I understand (though do not share) the argument that people must be required to try to work in order to get public assistance.  For me, I don't care if the person is drug addled or stupid or lazy or craven.  Their access to the basics of life are disconnected from whether or not I like or respect them.  But I get the idea that people might be discouraged from working if they can get food stamps or public assistance (even though the SNAP program is designed to push people off food stamps and discourage dependency).

But I do not understand this in the context of healthcare.  We spent last evening at a film premier for a local autism group, and came away quite impressed with the art and the autistic individuals.  But we also noted that most of them will need assistance and healthcare--that they will probably not be able to afford for most of their life.  Effort isn't an issue here.  Nor is it with most of those effected by Governor Fallin's decision.  This will disallow access to care for a lot of Oklahomans who work at jobs that pay too little or offer too few hours to qualify for benefits.

As Jon Stewart put it, we are seeing more and more rich Republicans try to disconnect from the social contract and just allow people at the bottom to fall.  Walmart pays their employees so little that most of them end up using food stamps or Medicaid--all while Walmart lobbies for Republican efforts to dismantle that very same safety net.  At that film premier last night, we noticed a lot of Republican voters who will benefit from Obama's policies for their children, but who (in most likelihood) voted for Romney's promise to repeal those same policies.

We are once again in the place where those who shout "Jesus" the loudest are working the hardest to make life harder on the poor and the sick.  And while I am no longer surprised by this, it still makes me sad.

November 14, 2012

Romney is exactly what we thought

There was always a part of me wondering if the Romney we imagined through the campaign was a fair depiction.  Was he really that disconnected from reality to think that the bottom 47% genuinely just wanted handouts?  Did he really not care about the poor?

Turns out Romney was exactly who we thought--a rich asshat who genuinely believes that non-white poor people are moochers.  (Romney Blames Loss On Obama’s ‘Big Gifts’ To Voters | TPM2012)

What an ass.

November 7, 2012

Obama wins second term

This election cycle has worn on me.  Perhaps 2008 was harder, I don't know, but watching Paul Ryan preparing to gut the safety net to finance the wealthy class frightened me.  Then there were all the indicators that suggested that Obama would lose, from the economy to the Romney ability to simply lie his way out of any situation.

Yesterday, I prepared for a loss, and so was pretty excited when I saw Obama victories in Pennsylvania.

Watching the two men speak last night, I was reminded of why I like Obama.  Romney said all the things he was supposed to, but I have to say he struck me as a person without a core.  I am not making too much of that concession speech--I think it is hard to speak well in that situation.  But he struck me as someone who just wanted to be President--whatever the voters wanted him to be.  This story struck that chord, with someone who knew what the right thing was, but could not act on it because the base and voters would not reward him for that.  So he chose the wrong way.

Obama, for all his flaws (and there are many) has always struck me as a genuinely compassionate person.  But watching him last night I wondered how it felt differently for him than the last time.  This time he knows full well the weight of the job, and had to return to it this morning.  Like me, I suspect he felt relief.

Who knows what this four years will bring.  I am glad that healthcare is protected for now, and pretty soon, we will see these provisions take place.  Still stunning that Obama could be hated and vilified for wanting to make sure people could hold on to healthcare coverage.  Something very wrong with that.

In other news, we saw the saw shocking erosion into the War on Drugs in Colorado and Washington state.  I am unsure about those changes, but really wonder if part of this is just not a reflection that the war has not worked.  My observations at the music festival a few weeks back confirms that.  But in a much bigger deal, marriage equality (cue the trolls) passed by a popular vote in several states.  As my friend Greg Horton noted on FB, that culture war is over.  The only people who don't realize it are those vested in keeping the anger and hatred stoked at the Family Research Council and other like groups.

I believe that the Republican party leadership sees that, and understands that some of their major planks will only survive in states like mine.  In the rest of the country, those stances will earn them a minority status.  Part of me hopes they continue with the racist madness, but the other part of me hopes that an adult Grownup Republican party returns with a viable and responsible approach to policy.

This blogger stated my hopes for this four years.

We chose health insurance for those who cannot afford it. We chose a softer approach to those seeking a better life within our borders. We chose – at least I hope we did – to begin healing our suffering planet. We chose the candidate who promised to protect the people who didn’t have a seat at the table of power, whose voices struggle to rise above the lobbyists, special interests and money that have flooded our political system.
Almost as important as what we chose is what we rejected.
We rejected a singular focus on cutting help for the poor to boost the incomes of the wealthy. 
For now, I will take solace in the fact that the most cynical campaign of my adult experience lost, and with that the billions spent by the Koch brothers and their ilk.  The battle isn't over, but today feels better than that Wednesday 8 years ago.   Lots to be grateful for today.

November 5, 2012

Republicans and morality

I have a lot of Republican family and friends. They are all, to a person, some of the most honest people I know. I can't imagine them cheating on their taxes or lying to get what they want any more than I can imagine that of my liberal friends. Yet, my conservative family and friends look the other way when their party attempts to stop people from voting (often based on race). Worse, they will vote for a person who lies more than he tells the truth. All because he isn't Obama. I will never understand that contradiction of moral people and an unhinged and immoral party.

November 3, 2012

The problem with the Pro-life movement is that it might not be as pro-life as they think

And no, I am not talking about other areas where they don't defend human life.  And in this instance, I am not even talking about pro-lifer's resistance to healthcare and nutrition for infants and young mothers.

All of those are legitimate issues, but now I am struck by the pro-life's disinterest in actually reducing abortions.  In my own discussions with some conservatives, I have yet to hear a response to questions about reducing abortions.  Their approach is predicated on banning abortions, in all but a few rare instances--most of which can be summarized as "when I think it is ok, not when some pregnant woman thinks so."

This link is an interesting take on some of this, but the other was this mind-blowing study that suggested that Obamacare's access to contraceptives might reduce abortion rates by as much as 75%.  If true, and I have no idea as to the study's bona fides, then, as this author notes, Obama becomes a "pro-life hero."

Who knows, but I will say that I have yet to get a conservative to answer this question:  "what if banning abortions didn't reduce them, but legalized abortion with good healthcare did?"  Not one response.

And I have a hypothesis, at least for some.  Many feminists and pro-choicers have argued that this comes from a Puritan disapproval of any sex outside their approved setting.  Others have suggested that, at heart, this constitutes a misogyny of the far right that has always been there, but rarely openly expressed as it was during the "Sandra Fluke as slut" incident.

And all of those have some validity, I think.  But I also wonder if this is not based at some level in the idea of the deification of motherhood.  It isn't that they don't want women to have sex (some of them know, after all, that some of these women getting abortions are married with kids.)  But the resistance to reducing abortions, I think, comes from the fact that their goal is to shame any woman who might question having children.  How dare a woman turn that down?

If you acknowledge that some abortions are reasonable, and decide to reduce those instances, you still acknowledge that some women don't want to be mothers, or don't want to be mothers in all instances.  But if you ignore the reduction strategies and instead push to ban all abortions, you not only shame those who have had them, but also any woman who might consider ending a pregnancy.

October 29, 2012

Sarah Sentilles schools Richard Mourdock

Sarah Sentilles speaks to something that has driven me batty over the past few years--the definitions of who God is and who he (always "he") is not.  I still remember church members assuring me that God was so much bigger than all of us that we could not comprehend him, but then diving into a discussion of things that God either hated or loved.  As I have pointed out to a few conservatives, that reading turns God into "everything and nothing" all at the same time.  He is simply a reflection of that individual's own fears, biases, beliefs, and not some external or objective being.

Sentilles uses the bizarro world of Richard Mourdock's views on pregnancy via rape to explore those disconnects (Rape and Richard Mourdock’s Semi-Omnipotent God | Sexuality/Gender | Religion Dispatches).  One of my FB friends read some of my early "what the fuck?" posts on Mourdock and accused me of misreading and misquoting the Senatorial candidate.  He wasn't saying God caused the rape, she said, but rather that God creates all life and that fetus should not be punished for the sins of the father (though the woman clearly should).
In Mourdock’s attempts to clear up his statement by arguing that it’s the pregnancy that results from the rape and not the rape itself that is a “gift from God” he’s making even less sense than he did the first time. If it’s only the pregnancy that’s the gift, then, as Amy Davidson points out in the New Yorker, Mourdock’s God is “an absent-minded God,” who must be looking in the other direction when the rape is occurring before “rush[ing] in to make the best of it.” Mourdock can’t eat his cake and have it, too. If the pregnancy is a gift from God and God is in control of everything, then the rape is also God’s work—for that’s how the woman got pregnant. 
Mourdock’s rape-and-pregnancy theology is clearly absurd, but the trickier part is that many who critiqued Mourdock’s statements also employed a variant of this logic when they insisted (as Mourdock later did) God is against rape.
 The whole thing is well worth reading.  My favorite, I think, was this near the end of the piece.
Mourdock’s appeal to God’s intention is used to shield him and his policies from critique. Hey, it’s not my fault I won’t let a rape victim get an abortion, I imagine him saying, choking back the tears. It’s God’s will! But whose God is Mourdock talking about? And why? And who benefits from his version of God? And who loses? I certainly haven’t heard Mourdock championing anti-poverty programs much, and God certainly says a lot more about poverty in the Bible than about abortion.
Ultimately, Mourdock’s statements reveal less about his beliefs than about his views of women. Would Mourdock call erectile dysfunction part of God’s plan? If a man can’t get it up is that God’s way of telling him not to reproduce? Not to have sex? And if it is, shouldn’t we make Viagra illegal?
Perhaps Mourdock would argue that God enabled the invention of Viagra. But then couldn’t you also argue that God helped invent abortions? That their existence is proof of God’s favor? Just how, exactly, are we to determine which medical interventions God intends and which ones God doesn’t?

October 27, 2012

A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote to deny care to the sick

As usual, Slacktivist says it better than I could.
If you plan to vote for Mitt Romney, you should look at their faces and learn their names. Maybe you can recite them to yourself as a reminder of how “pro-life” you are.
When you cast your vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and for their promise to repeal the law that eases the pain or saves the lives of all these people, at least have the decency to own up to it.
I have said something similar, but not quite as clearly.  

October 19, 2012

Why Torture Still Matters

Steve questioned the importance of torture in this election in our last thread.  I agree.  It is not on the radar screen, even though the Republicans have pledged to reverse Obama's ban on certain tortures.  And as several polls have shown, Bush's torture regime has succeeded in making torture more acceptable to American society.

But for me, torture is more than a policy debate.  It revealed the lack of core belief or morality in the conservative church--the very same church in which I was raised.

It is the "canary in the mineshaft," because unlike abortion, or wealth or slavery, or whatever other issue, torture has not been historically debated among Christians. Perhaps because Christians were often the target of torture in the ancient world, but there is no established Christian orthodoxy (that I know of) that finds torture acceptable. And I would suggest, that if we move back in time just a few decades, the people who shrug or defend torture now would not if the enemies looked different. As I have noted before, Ronald Reagan signed us into a treaty banning torture and no one denounced him when he did so. That was assumed to be basic American values. 

But Christianity has changed, and not for the better. This is not unique with me, but many have noted that the introduction of the so-called "moral voters" has politicized faith in a way that we hadn't seen in this country. Republicans, in my view, saw a group of people who were largely apolitical or disconnected from politics, but believed firmly, and decided to target them with social issues. 

In the beginning, those social issues fit within the religious framework of the conservative Christians (though you might be surprised to find out that protestants didn't mind abortion and even defended it strongly until around 1979). But feminism, gay rights, etc., proved a good way to make conservative Christian citizens into good and steady Republican voters. There was (and is) nothing inherently Christian about lower taxes or less government, but those have been combined into the moral values tent. 

Ok, so that worked for a while (even though I found it problematic at the time). But torture reveals something bigger than just a litmus test. It showed that conservative Christians were tribally conservative in a way that I didn't see. After all, had Clinton authorized torture, I suspect those same Christians would have seen that as proof of his immorality. But when one of their "tribe" authorized it, they backed it without even really thinking about it.  One of my Facebook friends defended torture almost explicitly because somehow Bush was on God's side.  The stupidity of that still stuns me.  As I told him, that is exactly how every goddamned tyrant justified torture.  

It is that tribal connection that bothers me the most. It has changed the way these Bible-believing, Church-attending Christians process moral issues.  If the issue is a conservative issue (abortion, gays, dependency) my friends view it through a (supposedly) Christian lens.  But if the issue is labeled "liberal" they view it through Republican lens.   How did torture become a liberal issue? When it was Soviet agents torturing downed pilots, or Chinese communists torturing Christians, it certainly wasn't a liberal issue. It was a clear violation of human rights and of basic human morality.  But torture, the environment, poverty, science, death penalty, etc., are now "liberal" issues and so are discussed in the political context rather than the moral.  

And given the problematic reading of scripture in those deemed religious, even the readings of abortion and gays become Republican talking points more than theologically informed discussions.  Even lying has become a politically framed issue, where Mitt's constant lies are seen only as political issues, not religious.  The irony of these same people pushing the Ten Commandments would be funny if it didn't have such consequence.  

Torture may have faded from the news, but for me, it will always be the issue that revealed, at least for me, the conservative church's transformation from religious institution to political tribe.

October 18, 2012

The GOP’s Secularism Problem

Several people have posted about the recent polling showing a decline in religious identification.  This post highlights the problem for the GOP, but it also, of course, poses a problem for the American church.

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.

As Sessions notes in the above link, many of the studies suggest that the disaffection with the church began during the Bush years, when the conservative church so closely aligned themselves with the Republican party.  Of course, we have not seen much separation since then--not over torture, not over attacks on the poor or women.

But as Fred Clark notes, the problem may be, in part, the fact that racism and hatred are not deal breakers for the conservative church.  As long as you oppose abortion and gays, you can do just about anything.  In fact, thinking about this recent campaign, many of the most racist Republican moments came in an appeal to evangelical voters.  And how did evangelicals respond?

Remember all the principled evangelical push-back against those efforts? No? Me neither, because that never happened. Here are some things you never heard during the GOP primaries: “Newt Gingrich drew criticism from evangelical voters for his racially charged attacks on ‘welfare queens.’” Or “Michele Bachmann lost evangelical support due to her comments about immigrants.” Or “Ron Paul’s newsletters flirting with white supremacists alienated the GOP’s evangelical bloc.” Or “Mitt Romney’s use of ‘illegal’ as a noun angers evangelical voters.”
That right there is a big part of why I have lost respect for the conservative evangelical church.  They said nothing about torture, and they have been lured by racism, not repelled by it.

It's Funny Because We're White

Ta-Nehisi Coates notes the white privilege issue behind Tagg Romney's anger at Obama.  This reminds me so very much of the 2008 election when whites usually saw McCain's anger as a good thing.  It revealed his passion and his dedication.  But when people used the words "anger" and "Obama" in any context, with either of them, it was a negative.  Most of my white friends didn't even acknowledge this, because I really don't think they could see it.

The same thing applied to Sarah Palin and her knocked up daughter.  Put that in the Obama family, and add the "local thug father" to the picture, and the right wing would have exploded with righteous anger.  This, they would have said, revealed a lack of morality in the Obamas.  But with Sarah, it was just fine.  And in fact, was a good thing.

Now, the spoiled rich white kid of a spoiled and racist liar Mitt Romney can get away with threatening to punch Obama in the face, because, as Coates says it, "Yes because a good whippin' would teach that Obama boy to mind his place."

I don't know that Tagg Romney is a racist.  I suspect he isn't any more than the rest of us.  But that is the point of white privilege.  It doesn't even dawn on him, or any one around him how that would not work the other way around.

October 17, 2012

Brewing for Democracy

I have been in a brewing frenzy this last month.  I had always planned on another double IPA and wanted to get a Winter beer brewed with room for some extended secondary time.  But when Obama released his two beer recipes, SOF put in her request for one.  So, three weeks ago, I brewed the Honey Porter.  

I used to love porters, but have not really had one I loved for sometime.  My tastes have changed, perhaps, and I have been drinking a lot of IPAs of various hop strength.  Speaking of that, I also brewed another version of Face Puncher--a super hopped beer that I only tried last spring because of the name.  But it is pretty good.  My hop-head friends love it.  And last, I brewed a Winter Warmer beer that I hope will be ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

Last week's festival put me behind a bit, so yesterday, SOF helped me bottle both the Face Puncher and Obama White House Honey Porter.  It was an exhausting evening of sanitizing bottles and cleaning, but well worth it.  (Yes, I still bottle and kind of prefer it to the keg, because I can hand my friends a couple or take them to dinner parties with ease.) Oh, and because I discovered this cool site on the Interwebs where you can get custom bottle caps.  Oh yes. 

 Here you can see the reason Obama did well in the debate, as I chose to Obamasize my cap for the porter. And while I am wrestling with how to format the pictures in this version of Blogger, you can also see a close up below.  

October 16, 2012

On morality, tribalism, and this infernal election cycle

Hi everyone.  Assuming anyone is still out there.  I apologize for not writing lately.  We just returned from a music festival in Arkansas where we had a fabulous time with amazing friends.  To be fair, we also dealt with ridiculous porta potties, mud and an unbelievable amount of stoned hippies.  But we heard some amazing music (HoneyHoney, Rose's Pawn Shop, The Gourds, Sam Bush, Brown Bird) and further realized how many amazing people we have in our circle.  Our new friend Misti wrote about it here, and I am not sure I can come close to her great description of the magic that happened in the Arkansas mountains.


But back to the real world we came.  This election cycle has been an amazing assault on my belief in humanity.  I honestly didn't think that was possible after watching people of faith defend and support torture.  I seriously didn't.  I thought that was the bottom.

This time, I have spoken to more conservative evangelicals who still defend torture, or at the very best, had to be walked through it.  You know the drill.  "Sure, torture is bad, but you have to remember, it was a scary time and these are some bad people who behead people."  Blah blah blah.  One guy from my college BSU who now runs it told me just last month that he still wanted to see Obama's birth certificate.  I told him it had been released.  Twice.

I have yet to hear back from him. I am hoping some of that is shame, but I kind of doubt it.  The same guy told me that Romney (and this guy is, remember, a minister) was absolutely right about the bottom half not working hard enough and being dependent on government.  I sent him stats that showed that to be wrong, and heard nothing back.

I now believe that most of these people of faith are so tribally Republican that they have no idea.  They honestly can't tell where the Bible ends and the GOP platform starts.  They have no idea that the Bible says nothing about abortion or capitalism, and completely ignore any of it that challenges wealth, greed, or, goddamnit, justice.

Speaking of torture, I read this today (Death row inmate walks free due to DNA evidence | The Raw Story) and am just reminded that most of these same people know that our death penalty system is deeply flawed.  Or they would if they thought about it.  They distrust government when it comes to feeding the poor, but have no problem with that same government killing people for them.  Or torturing them.  Or, they simply don't give a shit.

I am reading a story in MoJo (not online yet) on the growing use of solitary confinement in our prisons for the most specious of reasons. We are placing people in solitary (the prisons don't call it that, btw) for years.  Fucking years.  The UN's people who study torture suggest that more than 15 days in solitary should be considered torture.  That kind of solitude messes with people's brains and internal systems.   The writer was in solitary in Iran as a political prisoner for 26 months, so he had an idea of how this worked.

But in our prison system, he notes, it is actually worse than fucking Iran.  One prisoner was in solitary for 42 YEARS and many have been in for more than 20. 20 years in solitary?  The guards in Iran told the author the very same justification for solitary that he heard in Pelican Bay.

I am really glad to see this story get some investigation, and hope that more than progressives read about this but one of the things I have learned over the last decade is that Americans--especially those who talk about morality the most--simply don't care if we are torturing people. Not people accused vaguely of terrorism, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. And certainly not people in our massive prison system.

For a former Baptist to realize that so many conservative, bible-reading, Church going, Christian-talking people don't care about anyone who is not in their own circle or tribe--that is something I still can't quite grasp.

September 27, 2012

Obama: U.S. Won’t Let Iran Gain Nuclear Weapon

Haven't posted in a while, but saw this and saw Romney's response:  "Romney said the U.S. seems “at the mercy of events rather than shaping events.” (Story link).  Tonight I listened to a story on Netanyahu's UN speech where he talked about creating a "red line" that will somehow stop Iran from moving forward.

I think all of them are slightly deranged.  Obama, at least, shows some humility in this region, but the rest seem to assume we can just "invade" our policy into place.  What really amazes me about Republicans (especially) is their short memory.  The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts didn't exactly go according to plan, but here we are just a decade later with the same people pushing for another war in the Middle East to stop some theoretical threat.

Reminds me of the film, the Ox Bow Incident, where the crowd hangs the wrong people.  At the bar, after they know clearly that they hung the wrong people, one of the posse says that they should actually hang the leader of the posse.


September 5, 2012

This is what happens when Christianity loses its brain, and ultimately its heart.

Remember Ralph Reed?  Young and charismatic leader of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition?  Then disgraced partner of Jack Abramoff?

Yeah, he is back.  

But outraged by the election of Barack Obama, and responding to what he describes as God’s call (via Sean Hannity), Reed returned to start the Faith and Freedom Coalition with the aim of toppling Barack Obama from the White House.
But let's remember what he did with Abramoff.  They were hired by people in the Mariana Islands to stop potential labor reforms.  See, they were bringing in Chinese women, abusing them, using them as prostitutes and even forcing them to have abortions.  Some decided to try to clean those sweatshops up, because, since they are under American control, their work was sold as "made in America."

One would think, as I used to naively believe, the Christian in this story would be trying to clean up that situation and help those women.  Yeah, not so much.  Instead, he told Alabama Christians to oppose this reform because it was some liberal plot.

(You can read part of it here) : Of course, Reed didn’t tell those Christians he was being paid to help keep running sweatshops that exploited women. Instead, he told them the reforms were a trick orchestrated by the left and organized labor. Limits on Chinese workers would keep them from being “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.” His company explained it was just trying to encourage “grass roots citizens to promote the propagation of the Gospel” and that many of the workers were “converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”
Oh, and they are still working on that.  Opposing labor reforms was included in the fucking GOP platform.

I don't think words can describe how much I loathe these people, and how amazingly disappointing it is that Christians today are so easily duped.  What is worse, if they are told this story, they will simply ignore and support Reed.  After all, he heard a call from God.

September 4, 2012

Do religious people give more than unchurched?

Actually, I still don't know the answer to that.  We have commonly assumed that conservative religious people give more than others.  I have always had a little problem with that assumption, just in that the idea that you give to pay for air conditioning for your church is not, inherently, a charitable gift.  It certainly isn't inherently giving to people who need it.

Now this essay suggests there are studies that suggest that even church goers give less than they think.  And not just church goers, mind you.  Part of the problem here is not unique to people of faith, though they suggest that religious people believe that they should give even if they don't.

From 1968 to 2009, member giving to church finances as a percentage of income decreased from 2.45 percent to 2.04 percent, a decline of 17 percent. Far more dramatic has been the decline in giving for benevolences, or the broader mission of the church ranging from supporting seminaries to feeding the poor. Per member giving for benevolences dropped 48 percent, from .66 percent of income in 1968 to .34 percent in 2009, empty tomb reported.

One reason, said Sylvia Ronsvalle of empty tomb, is the church did not offer a positive alternative to the rampant consumerism in the affluent post-World War II society. Religious individuals today may be confused about what constitutes successful giving since all many of them are asked to do is the minimum to keep the local congregation going.

"We've succeeded at maintenance," she said. "But is that what we're supposed to be succeeding at? No."

In Smith, Emerson and Snell's book, the data shows, among other things, that one out of five U.S. Christians gives no money to charity or that nearly three-quarters give less than 2 percent of their income. "The majority of American Christians are actually quite ungenerous financial givers" given the teachings of their faith and their potential for generosity, they reported.

"It would appear that American Christians have much soul searching to do about the question of money," the authors concluded.

September 1, 2012

Working through disappointment

I have posted on this before, so pardon the self-centered nature of this post.  Higher education in general, and history in particular, are very hard places to find steady employment.  Most of us end up doing exactly what I am doing--teaching multiple classes at multiple colleges or universities for very low pay and no benefits or job security.  Oddly enough, there is a little bit of comfort in knowing that my experience is so common.  Very little comfort, but there it is.

Last spring, I had one more opportunity at a local community college.  It is the one job arena where my experience matters and my lack of publications don't.  Long story short, they chose someone else--a grad school colleague.  As much as I appreciate his work effort, I certainly don't think he is a better teacher.  But his connections were better than mine, and that is the story of my academic life.

Frustrating, though.  I emailed the chair to ask what I could have done better.  He said my presentation, experience and interview were excellent and he couldn't think of any way to improve.  What sounded like a pretty strong compliment also made the rejection that much more painful.  "You were perfect and could not have done better.  But we still aren't going to hire you."

I know I am a good teacher.  I had a student say "wow" the other day when I explained how the Black Codes allwed southern plantation owners to recreate the ante bellum south in 1866.  I have had numerous students tell me my class was their favorite.  That helps.  I have worked really hard this semester to figure out new ways to approach teaching the same course.

But the constant rejection has taken a toll.  Don't get me wrong.  My life is better than I deserve.  SOF and I get along and have so for 24 years.  We live in a nice community and have amazing friends.  My life is better than most of the people on the planet.  Being rejected for a community college job is not even close to the end of the world.

There are moments, however, when the disappointment is hard to ignore.  The worst occur when I am around multiple people who are deeply ensconced in the cult of academia.  They really don't understand those of us on the outside.  Worse, at times, they have no idea how hard we work to teach more than they do (often) for a tenth of the pay and no benefits.  Yesterday was one of those painful moments when one of the people from the job search last spring emailed me (again) to ask me to adjunct at the same place.  I feel like asking him gently that he might consider how hard it would be for me to meet the same people who voted against me, and the person who they chose, while I do the same job for pennies.

I can rationalize every single job disappointment.  Either I screwed up as I did at a couple of opportunities, or I was never really a serious consideration in a few.  Or there were those jobs that I am so fortunate not to have.  But occasionally, I am reminded of them and it still stings.

August 31, 2012

What are taxes for?

Heard this fabulous story on the drive home (Time to Overhaul America's Aging Bridges?) which both infuriated me at our political mess, and reminded me of the amazing nature of NPR.  No shouting, no names, just a thoughtful and informed discussion on the issues.

But the subject got me thinking about our political impasse today.  As I have suggested many times, most conservatives conceptualize tax money as undeserving and lazy people getting free stuff.  As I have pointed out to people, the safety net (outside Medicaid) constitutes only 14% of our budget, and surely even conservatives don't believe that all or even a majority of those receiving aid are lazy.  Do they?

Back to bridges.  This subject more than most reminded me of our unbalanced discussion on taxes.  Imagine what an infusion of tax money would mean for the 8,000 bridges that need substantial repair.  It would, first and foremost, update our infrastructure to make it more reliable and less risky.  So, we would get something tangible even if we, personally, don't drive on that bridge.  It would put thousands of people to work.  Those people would then pay rent, buy groceries and purchase clothing and cars.  That would help the struggling retail market, car sales, and possibly even help with some of the mortgage situations.

That infusion of tax money would help thousands and ripple through our economy.  And of course, we would get new bridges that won't collapse into the river.

August 27, 2012

More public shootings, and why are voters so dumb?

So, last week we had a few more public shootings.  The one that caught my eye occurred near the Empire state building where a man gunned down his former boss, and then died himself in a shootout with police.  The interesting thing is that the second shootout involved 9 bystander injuries, and reports suggest that most of them were injured by police bullets.

I am not criticizing the police here.  This was a difficult situation in a public place, but it highlights why I hate the idea of more guns on the street as an answer to public shootings at schools or theaters.  Here, people trained and practiced were unable to just get the bad guy.  What makes gun rights people really think that untrained people in a crowd will do better?


Polling data out says that most people are concentrating on the economy, and on the economy and deficit, Romney gets better marks.  This makes me think that voters are dumb, dumb, and even dumber.  Republicans have, at every step, pledged to stop Obama from getting any traction on the economy, and have killed stimulus bills, middle class tax cuts, programs aimed to help small businesses, and people give the Republicans better marks on the economy?  Seriously?  As I told a friend this morning, this is like a coach who refuses to call any passing plays, then criticizes the QB for his lack of passing yards.

Oh, and Romney pledges to do what now?  Cut taxes on the rich, and slash safety net programs.  No one has said he will actually balance the budget.  He will take away your healthcare though.  Got to love that.

August 23, 2012

What constitutes an apology and did Todd Akin truly "make a mistake?"

I just saw this:  Huckabee Backs Akin, Lashes Out At GOP | TPM LiveWire, where Huckabee makes a plea for fairness and, essentially, a second chance for the guy who said that women being truly raped won't get pregnant.

He certainly apologized for saying so, but for what?  Is he really sorry for saying something that he clearly believed to be true?  Did he learn in the backlash that he had no understanding of human reproduction?

Or was he simply sorry that, as a friend of mine put it, "people on the interwebs thought he was a complete idiot."

If he really learned, then that would be great.  But I have been reading about all the people in the Republican party who believe things that are very close to this.  One doctor wrote an article about how rape victims rarely get pregnant, and both Romney and Akin know of him and Romney praised him.

Plus, in the day after he "apologized," Akin said that he really meant to talk about how women lie about rape.

Jesus Christ!  His apology about saying that raped women wouldn't actually get pregnant really meant to say that women lie about rape all the time--and would do so to get an abortion.  Just more of the trend, and I really see this in so many on the right--that women cannot be trusted with their own body.  Those same women, I would note, are left to their own devices and "personal responsibility" when dealing with abusive men, healthcare needs, access to contraceptives, and even providing healthcare and nutrition to an infant.  But when faced with a difficult pregnancy, they can have no individual responsibility, because women simply can't be trusted.


August 22, 2012

Romney uses same racist dogwhistle. Southern strategy returns.

Which means that he may not be actually racist himself, but more than willing to appeal to racism to win.  Despite Fact Checks, Romney Escalates Welfare Work Requirement Charge : It's All Politics : NPR.  Everyone who knows anything about welfare reform has said that Obama is not removing the work requirement.

It is a lie, and Mitt has to know it is.  After all, compared to some of the dim bulbs the GOP has elevated lately, Romney isn't an idiot.

But he doesn't care.  Because this ploy paints Obama as a welfare queen.  "How in the world could he not understand the power of work, the dignity of work?" Romney said the other day.

Right, because Barack Obama isn't a hard worker, right?  Because he is black.

This is fucking racist bullshit, and the people who are pushing this in Romney's campaign, including Mitt himself, are fucking racist assholes for saying something they know to be untrue.

This is your GOP, conservatives.  Don't you ever, EVER, suggest to me again that Republicans are moral.

August 21, 2012

Beer Geeks Determined to Unlock Obama's Home-Brew Recipe - Politics - The Atlantic Wire

Beer Geeks Determined to Unlock Obama's Home-Brew Recipe - Politics - The Atlantic Wire

Now we are geeks?  I haven't actually heard that Obama drinks anything I would really like to sample.  I love that he values craft brewing, mind you, but until he is requesting a double IPA or Belgian Dubbel, I am not sure I really want the recipe.

Though that could be cool, now that I think of it.

August 20, 2012

Rape victims get no help from conservatives--and Paul Ryan is just as bad as Todd Akin

What is more, far from being the outlying sentiment in the Republican party, this is now part of their mainstream beliefs.  War on women?  This is awfully close to that.

Todd Akin’s Rape Comment Was Bad but His Abortion Views Are Much Worse - The Daily Beast

For the Tea Party, a woman who gets pregnant can't have been raped

There is so much awful and stupid in this story:  GOP Senate nominee: Women don’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate’ rapes | The Raw Story.  As one person noted online, beating me to it, this is the pregnancy version of drowning a woman to find out if she is a witch.  If she gets pregnant, she must have actually wanted sex.

I would sigh, but that just seems too mild for this type of misogyny.  All from a guy who has a BS in "management engineering" and clearly didn't, as SOF noted, attend his elementary school "life science" class.  But worse than misunderstanding how reproduction works, this is the other side of the idea that women are asking to be raped.  "Look how she dressed," or "what was she doing walking in a dark alley," or "how dare she have breasts."

All to stop women from having abortions.  This really makes clear that this not about abortion, per se, but about keeping control of women and their fertility.  This is anti-women far more than anti-abortion.

And this guy isn't the first.  Here is a story from 1988, but that isn't the only one.  A doctor in 2006 said that "women are not fertile during an attack."   Nor is this the only stupid and hateful thing Akin believes.  He also believes the morning after pill causes abortions, even though the science says otherwise.

But here is the thing.  Todd Akin looks like a toad.  I am not trying to be mean, but he looks awful on tv and in print.  I am guessing that the American people, including my conservative evangelical friends will find his statements odious and wrong.  They will denounce them (oh Sweet Jesus, I hope so) and decide that Akin is not a good example of Republican thought.

Ah, but here is the rub.  Not only did Paul Ryan (does not look like a toad) endorse Akin in his primary bid and speak eloquently about Akin's leadership in the house, the GOP vice presidential candidate also worked closely with the toad to redefine rape downward.  To keep women from getting an abortion on Medicaid or other federal funding, Ryan and Akin worked together to redefine rape to only mean "forcible rape," which many observers noted would eliminate all sorts of awful situations.  Statutory rape, which can mean, of course, an 18 year old and a 16 year old, but can also mean a 30 year old man with a 13 year old girl--statutory rape wouldn't qualify as "forcible."  Nor would date rape or taking advantage of a mentally challenged woman.

So, while many conservative Christians will, undoubtedly, pat themselves on the back for standing up to Todd Akin this morning (and who knows how many will defend him out of tribal loyalty), they will all speak highly of Paul Ryan and not seem to connect that the difference between the two is not ideology or belief, but appearance.  One doesn't look like a toad.  He just advocates the same misogyny as the toad does.

August 19, 2012

One link between fundamentalist Christianism and racism

Blogger Jesse Curtis explains that one source of his own racism was the horrible Bob Jones U history texts he read as a child:
-The book's entire treatment of slavery, other than briefly mentioning it in other contexts such as the constitutional convention and the Missouri Compromise, is contained in a box inset on two pages. In this brief box, we're assured that slaves were well fed and clothed, and that the vast majority of southerners did not own slaves. Nowhere in the whole book do we find out what life was like for average slaves or free blacks, nor are we told that over a fourth of slave families were broken up by sale.
-The text states that slavery was not the primary cause of the civil war and argues that it had more to do with constitutional differences of opinion. It does not discuss the actions of slaves, free blacks, and black soldiers during the war to win their freedom.
-It says that the 14th amendment was the most important and far-reaching of the reconstruction amendments because it increased the power of the federal government. Apparently this theoretical concern was of greater importance than the 13th amendment which officially ended slavery for four million people.
-It dispenses with Jim Crow in a single page, and we're not told how the "Redeemer" governments regained control in the South.
I wish I could say I was shocked by this, but I am not.  But this is part of (only part) why we are still battling the civil war, and Obama's election was the latest part of that.  And, if you know anything about fundamentalism, you know that many conservative Christians have pushed their kids to read these very textbooks.  No wonder we have a race problem in the southern church as well.  

August 13, 2012

Time to just admit that the Republican party hates the poor

Choosing Paul Ryan as their VP and openly endorsing the Ryan Budget means that it is time to stop acting otherwise.  All my conservative friends assure me they care about the poor and give to the poor.  And I believe that.  But there is absolutely no way that they will give double or triple of what they give now, and that is just a bit of what will be required to address the need if this budget passes.  The numbers simply don't add up.  Conservatives who want to nearly gut the safety net while cutting taxes for the rich are lying if they then insiste they really want to help the poor.  

They don't.  The GOP might as well change their motto to "Fuck the Poor."  

At least that would be honest.  

August 4, 2012

Chick-fil-A continued

A nice list of thoughtful comments on the Chicken mess, here from Fred.  As for me, I have a few more thoughts.  I read several people on FB say that this was about defending Biblical marriage.  As many have pointed out, that isn't one thing.  But even if it were, Christian conservatives have a very inconsistent past on this--and I bet they don't even remember.

When gays people simply wanted the right to be gay, conservative Christians opposed that.  When they wanted the right to not be charged with a crime for having gay sex, conservative Christians opposed that.  When they wanted the simple right to not be fired for being gay, conservative Christians opposed that.

Conservative Christians have tried to make gay people not gay.  They have funded (though badly) organizations dedicated to transforming gays into straights.  And when that didn't work, they simply tried to push gay people back into the closet.

You don't get to say that it is just about gay marriage.  It was never about marriage.  It was about being gay.  Conservative Christians simply don't want gay people to exist.

But they do.

August 1, 2012

Gay Bashing as Christian value

I have no idea what will happen to Chik-fil-a after all of this.  I believe firmly that the tide is going against the anti-gay side.  Young kids don't care as much as the older people, and they find it frustrating to see their gay friends or kids with gay parents attacked with such hatred.

And that is what I felt when I read some of the reports of the people flocking to buy chicken sandwiches today.  Hatred is now a Christian value.  Is it any wonder I struggle more and more to identify with these people?

July 31, 2012

More on lying: universal healthcare version

Check out this interesting post by a pro-life conservative who moved to Canada for a few years.  She was pregnant with her third child and scared to death that the socialists in Canada would harm her pregnancy.  She even considered trying to come back to the states for treatment where she could choose doctors and pay for all of it.

As it turns out, she found out that it wasn't bad.  It was actually good.
Fast forward a little past the Canadian births of my third and fourth babies. I had better prenatal care than I had ever had in the States. I came in regularly for appointments to check on my health and my babies’ health throughout my pregnancy, and I never had to worry about how much a test cost or how much the blood draw fee was. I didn't have to skip my ultrasound because of the expense.
And about abortion? She was horrified to see that their healthcare covered abortions, but then realized that it wasn't as bad as she thought.
Abortion wasn’t pushed as the only option by virtue of it being covered. It was just one of the options, same as it was in the USA. In fact, the percentage rates of abortion are far lower in Canada than they are in the USA, where abortion is often not covered by insurance and can be much harder to get. In 2008 Canada had an abortion rate of 15.2 per 1000 women (In other countries with government health care that number is even lower), and the USA had an abortion rate of 20.8 abortions per 1000 women.
Imagine that? Fewer abortions even though they were covered?  But as she notes, the lower number might be due to the fact that no women had to worry about paying for expensive care or losing their job. Talk about pro-life.

In this follow-up post, she talks about why she was so scared of universal care:
I was afraid of Universal Health Care, because I knew nothing else but what I had been told by religious propaganda and conservative think tanks. They repeatedly spread the idea that Universal Health Care took away all choice. I was told that people were assigned doctors, and were not free to choose a different doctor. I was told that older people were denied health care and left to die because they were not a priority to the national interest. I was also told that abortion was pushed heavily on any woman who had an unwanted pregnancy or women who were pregnant with a child with disabilities. I was told that people with disabilities would be eliminated by government encouraged abortions or possibly even killed at birth (they wouldn’t want those people on the federal dole since they would “waste money” and “drain the system.”)
She was lied to. And often by the same people who want the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls. Many of those liars undoubtedly did so out of ignorance, but that explains it only so far.

I am tired of liars lying for Jesus.

Should we boycott Chik-fil-A for supporting anti-gay policies?

I am sure everyone is aware of the chicken fast food founder who had this to say about gay marriage:
"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about," Cathy said.
I always love this theology. God loved America when we owned slaves, allowed children in mines, killed Native peoples and took their land. God seems to prefer us when we torture others because they scare us, and he doesn't mind a high infant mortality rate nor a high maternal death rate. Children in poverty? Nope. But embrace gays and God gets pissed.

That aside, I have been iffy on the boycott. It hasn't really been an issue because I rarely eat there. And I had to agree with some of my conservative friends who thought that Boston and Chicago were trampling on first amendment rights when they threatened to not allow the franchise access to their cities. And certainly, while I find Dan Cathy to be an uninformed bigot, he has the right to be an uninformed bigot.

But, as Fred Clark noted, the company doesn't just think this, they take action to cause "actual harm to actual people." I don't need to give them money to donate to Exodus International nor political groups trying to harm my gay friends.

And if the issue started as just another example of the culture wars, Now Chik-fil-A Is Pretending To Be a Bible-Quoting Teenage Girl. Why? To cover up for a blatant lie where they told their customers that their children's toys would no longer be from the Jim Henson company because of a product recall. Rather than say that the Henson company withdrew over the gay issue, they made up a reason.

Amazing, really. This started with Dan Cathy preening about Biblical values and traditional family, and ends with the company lying about someone with whom they disagree. I have wondered this for sometime, but how is it that the same people who tell me we should post the Ten Commandments in public buildings don't seem to sweat it when their political heroes violate the "thou shall not bear false witness" one. Is it ok to lie as long as you lie for Jesus?

I am guessing that this lie won't cost them one bit of support from the conservative Christian set. After all, Dan Cathy may be a lying bigot, but he is part of the conservative Christian political tribe. And that says it all.

July 20, 2012

The Certainty of More Shootings

Fallows on the Denver shootings.  I am mindful of the need to not politicize something like this, but have to say that after each one of these, I feel this deep sense of sadness that our country seems to do this more than others.  It isn't that we have more insane people, and it isn't even that we may not be good at dealing with the insane people we do have.  But we do seem to insist on believing that the answer to gun violence is to have more guns.

Seems like we should be able to talk about reasonable gun control without the NRA accusing us of caving to the UN.

July 14, 2012

On Sacred Spaces

SOF and I just returned from her family reunion.  This was one of our better ones in that we seemed to get along better and enjoy the interactions.  We avoided political and religious fights--all which left a few silent spaces at the dinner table, but contributed to a much more positive experience.

Part of the time was devoted to assessing family business and planning--part of which regards a family cabin.  And we mean "cabin" here, not "house in mountains."  No running water or indoor plumbing.  But for this family, that cabin represents more than shelter.  It has taken on a sacred dimension.

The recent spate of fires and beetle-kill has spurred a lot of discussion about this particular cabin--to say nothing about generational change.  Who knows what will happen, but the beetles have already changed the surrounding environment.  And that, I think, is the issue regarding sacred space:  change.  For many in the family, this cabin represents a sacred space, and one that should be protected, maintained and held.  As a quasi-outsider, it is clear to me that the building is more symbolic than real.  It has become a holder of family memories and is locked in a sepia-tinged photo of all-younger family members smiling on the porch.  No matter that during that time, many were deeply unhappy, of course, because in the cabin those memories are all positive.  

As that outsider, I remember my few visits there, and could not quite makes sense of my own discomfort.   In a sacred space, there are rules for your experience.  And in the case of this cabin, those rules were mostly unwritten and unspoken.  My discomfort was not understanding that I was in a place filled with ghosts and memories and connections to the past.  That back room was built by so and so.  That stove came from that other person.  "We don't do that here."  It is only in retrospect that I can see I could not experience that area or space as my own.  The experience was tightly scripted--even though I doubt anyone there thought of it that way.  And built into that script was the idea (contradicted by the narrative, of course) that the cabin never changes.  It always is.  

That isn't meant as criticism, because I am thinking of my own sacred spaces.  One of them will be for sale soon, and that news hit me like a brick.  That is because I had my own sense of what that space meant--even though it was not mine to define.  And, to be sure, we have had some amazing experiences there.  But more than once, in that same space, I have looked at others and wondered why they did what they did.  How dare they experience "my" sacred space that way?  "We don't do that here."  

Anglican often reminds me that "everything changes" and "nothing stays the same."  Those words have served me well over the past few weeks.  I am also reminded of SOF's great advice when addressing items or tokens that held great personal significance.  She gently pointed out that the item itself was not the memory.  

My sacred space will soon be in some other hands.  Likewise, that family cabin is just a building.  While it can function as a place to both connect to nature and family and enjoy the tradition and past, it does not have to be the holder.  Those memories and connections exist whether the cabin does or not.  But when we insist that the sacred space be the one holder of those memories and connections, we risk losing them all.

And we do not have to do that.  

July 5, 2012

On freedom and the individual and healthcare

Happy 5th of July, everyone. Our 4th turned out quite nice when we received a delightful invitation to dinner with good friends.  Our kitchen is in disrepair (new floors) so we were just going to hang out and cook something on the grill, but so much easier when someone else did it.  :)

But a couple of links for those who don't read Slactivist.  First, is this idea that ‘Libertarianism is [not] a philosophy of individual freedom’.  I am working my way through the Crooked Timber post and it is rather long and involved, but interesting.  I have always found libertarianism to be rather utopian in nature--just a vague belief that absent government interference, freedom would dominate.  I don't see any evidence in history or the world around me that smaller government leads to anything approaching great personal freedom.  Instead, all I see is that small government and low taxes leads to rule by a small group of very rich people, a tiny middle class, and a whole lot of poor people.

I am reminded of that when I see reports that right wingers are thinking of fleeing the country after the healthcare ruling.  Of course that is just a rhetorical flourish, and God knows I have thought of moving to Canada myself.  But the interesting thing was that those people could not move to another industrialized and free country that would have less healthcare than we have here.  Their idealized world looks more like Iran and Somalia than any other industrialized Western nation.

Speaking of that, this fascinating story (again, Slactivist) on the very conservative evangelical Michael Bird who teaches in Australia and has lived in the UK.  Turns out, while he agrees with American evangelicals on gay marriage and abortion, he is stunned that American evangelicals oppose healthcare, and one of his main points is that Jesus was very concerned with healing the sick.  Not only that, but in other industrialized democracies, healthcare has come from the Christian community, not despite the Christian community.
Christian Advocacy for Healthcare. Every western democracy from Norway to New Zealand has universal healthcare for its citizens except for the most prosperous nation on earth. Across the world this move to care for the sick has been driven by a Christian ethic of compassion and not by the pursuit of economic again. Now as any mission organization will tell you, there is no mission without margin, so you have to pay for it. But the purposes of taxation is not a re-distribution of wealth, but to do together what we cannot do individually, airports, defence, environment, education, commerce, etc. and to help the poor and the vulnerable. Universal health care is not a ponzi scheme any more than the USAF is a ponzi scheme. It is something that is needed and in the national interest of our citizens to have.
As he notes, American evangelical opposition to healthcare has nothing to do with the Bible or their own theology, but rather their tribal connection to the GOP.  And that is just sad.

June 30, 2012

Obamacare upheld

And the freakout was not far behind.  A former spokesman for the Michigan GOP suggested armed rebellion was the answer.  I always love that.  Conservatives seem to think they are somehow so patriotic that they can advocate shooting people?  One Republican referred to the SCOTUS ruling as 9-11, because, you know, it is hard to tell the difference between a devastating terrorist attack and a court ruling that says people can have access to healthcare.

And that is the part that just blows me away.  I hear conservatives everywhere talk about losing their freedoms, but I don't know what freedoms those are.  It is harder to smoke in public, that is for sure, but I don't know that Obama or the Feds are pushing that.  It is harder to scald yourself in the shower.  You can't purchase a completely unsafe car as easily as you could before.

Everyone I hear bitching about the mandate already has healthcare and would not, for a minute, think seriously about not having insurance.  Yet telling them they have to have it--for all the reasons that it actually works--is some kind of tyranny?  The government has the ability to mine your data, tap your phones, and find out what books you check out--to say nothing of my key test case--torture people--yet somehow telling people to get healthcare is a start to Nazi Germany.

I honestly don't get it.  And it isn't as if Republicans are serious about keeping government out of your life--at least if you are a woman.  They support a lot of healthcare mandates.  They don't have the least bit of a problem forcing a woman to undergo all sorts of medical intrusions if she has reproductive issues.  They can deny her access to emergency contraception, can actually force her to have a transvaginal probe, or they can simply force her to give birth regardless of the situation. 

I hate to break it to Republicans, but those stances are contrary to the idea of freedom. 

Ultimately, where I no longer respect that side of the aisle is their complete willingness to be duped into stupid outrage.  The Mandate came out of a conservative think tank, and until Freedom Works and others decided it was just what Hitler would do, was widely accepted in conservative circles.  As we talked about here, if you poll people on the basics of the ACA, even Republicans support most of them--including the ban on preexisting conditions and lifetime cap--both of which are completely impossible without the mandate. 

But my Republican friends will shout about freedom, and then go out to vote for someone who wants to restore our torture regime, and take away our healthcare.  If any of that makes sense to you, then you must be a Tea Partier. 

June 27, 2012

The least of these?

Old news, but the attack on the poor and the needy continues.  In Pennsylvania, the Republican governor is looking to reduce assistance to the needy, "including cutting support for the mentally ill." The mentally ill aren't the only ones, of course.  Anyone at the bottom is under attack to take care of themselves.  Or not. 

In Kansas, Brownback just signed a tax law that removes income tax for businesses, professional income, or anything that can be sheltered in a trust or partnership.  The elderly, the working class, and anyone who doesn't make enough money to shelter their money will still pay income taxes.  For reduced services that they need more, of course. 

All this, while my Christian conservative friends pray for the ACA to be overturned and for Obama to lose his reelection bid.  Obviously, for many of you here, that doesn't surprise or shock you, because as Leighton just said so eloquently, "lies for Jesus are just simply lies."  I still, stupidly want to believe that my conservative Christian friends--the ones who speak glowingly of their personal relationship with someone who healed the sick and hung out with whores and lepers--would actually want policies that look after the "least of these." 

But for many of them, Obama's race undoubtedly taps something they can't openly address.  For others, deep down, they just don't like poor people, and assume that many of those who are homeless or ill or poor are just lazy and immoral.  I wish I could say I understood that, but there is a cruelty there that is just scary.  But I absolutely don't understand their sycophantic kneeling at the altar of the wealthy and powerful. 

Read this from the late departed Elizabeth Edwards.  In this 2008 essay, she describes meeting a single mother (apparently), seemingly employed, grabbing Edwards at a talk and telling her that she was terrified by the lump in her breast, but could not get it checked because she had no insurance.
In the landscape of the health-care debate, two very different paths lie in front of us. Which one we choose will speak volumes about who we are as a nation and what values we hold dear. Our choice will determine what we say to women like Sheila—whether we say, “We are with you. Your challenge is our challenge too, and we will help you face it,” or simply shrug and say, “Sorry, you’re on your own.” That’s the moral choice we face today and which path we walk down is up to us.
My Christian friends don't want to admit it, but the people who pray to a man who healed women and lepers, are saying to people like Sheila, "you are on your own." 

There is nothing Christian about that response. 

June 26, 2012

Anti-intellectualism, evangelicals and the American mind

Two posts the other day caught my eye.  The first was this from Fred Clark on how professors in evangelical schools often have to lie to their students.  I remember as a teen a discussion about seminary.  One person noted that those who went to seminary expecting to get their beliefs rubber-stamped were in for a big surprise.  But I then watched as conservatives within the SBC went to rather extreme efforts to make sure that was no longer true.  And this is what Fred observes.  Intellectual inquiry has been banished, because for conservatives, intellectual inquiry and curiosity are bad things.

This, along with the emphasis on female submission started my exodus from the church.

But it isn't just the church that struggles with anti-intellectualism.  Americans, as Richard Hofstadter noted, have always struggled with this distrust of the academy and the intellectual life.  But in recent years, that has taken a different tack toward seeing education as just another market-driven problem.  I see it all the time with college students who see their tuition as payment for a degree, or, in my class, payment for a grade.  Not access to learning.  Just that letter grade and the ultimate degree.

But they aren't alone.  Conservatives everywhere have decided that education should be run as a part of a free market economy.  Cheaper to just use people like me to educate, and push everything to the online environment or for-profit education.  Chris Hayes has a really good discussion here.

I would have liked to see more discussion on the role the university itself has played here, but that will come.  I would also like to see more discussion of the role that education has played in research and social mobility.  But conservatives don't seem to value either.