April 30, 2012

Let's just say it: The Republicans are the Problem

Finally, someone says it: the Republicans are the problem, and avoids the normal media approach of blaming both sides.
Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.
It is always dangerous to wax nostalgic about the past.  And there is no doubt that we have some heavy handed partisans in our past.  But my memory and reading suggests that we always had a pretty good mass of people who, while not motivated by altruism, had at least a goal of good governance.

I don't see that in the modern Republican party.  The Democrats, while hardly perfect, worked with Bush when they could.  Republicans, on the other hand, refuse to work with Obama, and reject even conservative proposals if they perceive that Obama might get credit.  Nothing is more important to these people than defeating Obama--and that includes serving the American people.

What is more amazing to me, however, are those still voting for the GOP.  At first, I wrote that off to the conservative lack of compassion toward the poor, and I still see that.  Conversation after conversation suggests that my conservative colleagues see the poor primarily as lazy and possibly immoral.  They have compassion, but think that most of the poor can, and should, work harder.

But this last round has revealed that it isn't just the very poor.  The GOP reviles the working poor too--those who work multiple jobs, but still apply for SNAP benefits to eat.  And let's take it just a little further.  The GOP is after the safety net, and even the safety net that middle and upper middles look to in their retirement years.  If the GOP gets their way, they will reduce Medicare to a voucher that increases only at inflation, leaving the elderly to negotiate for healthcare on the open market on a fixed income with less and less assistance.  As I mentioned to one of my friends the other day, middle class Republicans are not only voting to make life harder on the poor, but voting to make their own retirement more painful.  They are voting to cut their own throats, and thanking the GOP for the opportunity.

I hope they will wake up, but I am watching people vote out of emotion rather than logic--and emotion is much easier to manipulate.  And the GOP can manipulate emotional hatred of Obama (or whoever we throw up there, let's be honest) and distract their voters from the attack on their own interest.

April 24, 2012

Lest we forget, Christian President George Bush tortured early, often, and indiscriminately

Haven't talked about torture since the last time a Republican defended it--and that would be just a few months back.  The leadership of the party thinks that torture is acceptable and even moral. And why should they not?  It polls well among their base, as we have also discussed.

But a reminder of what these people did in our name:

Bush ordered the torture early in the war, and did so over the objections of moral people all along the way. To do so, they found lawyers to simply write briefs saying the torture was legal.

Then they tortured. They tortured men at military bases and detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Guantánamo, and in U.S. Navy bases on American soil; they tortured men in secret CIA prisons set up across the globe specifically to terrorize and torture prisoners; they sent many more to countries with notoriously abusive regimes and asked them to do the torturing. At least twice, after the torturers themselves concluded there was no point to further abuse, Washington ordered that the prisoners be tortured some more.
They tortured innocent people. They tortured people who may have been guilty of terrorism-related crimes, but they ruined any chance of prosecuting them because of the torture. They tortured people when the torture had nothing to do with imminent threats: They tortured based on bad information they had extracted from others through torture; they tortured to hide their mistakes and to get confessions; they tortured sometimes just to break people, pure and simple.
You get that?  They didn't just torture Khalid Sheik Muhammed, they tortured innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  They tortured people who had a tenuous connection to torture, and they did it when there was no imminent threat.  The sadists we elected in 2000 and 2004 overrode the torturers in two cases and ordered more pain and more abuse.

Need I remind you these are the same people most likely to quote from the Bible as they run for office?  Most likely to talk about their "personal relationship" with Jesus as they authorize or defend torture?  Most likely to talk about "moral values" and their decline as they order some innocent person shackled by wrist and ankle to a D-ring in the middle of the floor and then induce hypothermia.

The Republican party is the party of torture.  They love it.  They want to do more of it.

April 19, 2012

capitalism, morality, and evangelical tribalism

It has been an interesting few weeks.  We had some great guests stay with us the last few weekends, and then this most recent Friday had to retreat to our shelter as a tornado came within a half mile of our humble home.  We were lucky, but one of our good friends had damage to her home and fence.  Luckily, she and her family are safe, but it was one of those afternoons that will get your attention.

I have had an on-again, off-again conversation with some evangelical conservative friends of late.  One of them works in a student ministry, and the other used to be a pastor--though that very fact both scares me and makes me very glad that he is no longer in that position.

Anyway, the conversation has been predictable in many ways.  Both tend to recycle right wing talking points, and many times, I think, without even knowing.  Both are convinced that government programs are inherently inefficient, and that a good many people who receive government assistance should not.  Both of those viewpoints, I think, reflect this idea of "tribalism" where they see things purely through a lens of  "with us" or "against us."  Conservatives have been very effective at using that belief, I think, in convincing conservatives (and many liberals) that the media is biased against conservatives, or most recently, that any program that Obama supports is probably a bad idea.  Fred Clark has written on this lately, and his last one suggests that this tribalism comes from a deep insecurity.

I am going to keep thinking about this idea.

But back to my conversation.  Beyond the rather reflexive "government is bad" from both, I also see what I believe to be a false sense of what the unregulated market will produce.  Both express a belief that people--as families, or as individuals, or as sexual beings--should act in a certain moral way.   But at the same time, they suggest that an unregulated market is best.  E.J. Dionne writes about this phenomenon, noting that most two-income couples are two-income by necessity.  But those who want one parent at home with the kids seem to also want the market unregulated.

As I pointed out (we will see if they respond), the market doesn't care about morality.  The market cares about profit, and if that profit comes by child labor, or selling crack or prostitution--that is fine.  The market only cares if the worker dies if he or she can't be replaced.  Same for the consumer.

And as I also pointed out to my friends, they tacitly accept this because they both want the government to ban certain things they don't like--drugs, abortion, and gay marriage.  The free market, however, doesn't care about either of those.

Why the market is to be trusted in some areas, but not others puzzles me.  But to be fair, so does the belief that somehow the market will magically address social or moral issues.  Not sure why anyone would think it cares.  Those things are only addressed when people make political and personal choices, and ask what are often hard questions.

April 7, 2012

Christianity in Crisis

On this day, one year ago, we said goodbye to Streak.  Amazing how much we still miss him.

My last post was obviously strident.  But the cognitive dissonance of conservatism and conservative Christianity is very hard to take.  I don't get it.  How do people who follow Christ (just ask them) embrace the politics of the rich and powerful, while stepping on the necks of the poor?  How has the teachings of an itinerant preacher become the preferred faith of the gated community set?  How do they not see a problem with that?

Thankfully, I am not the only one who sees a problem.  I know other readers here do, and it is nice to see others around the country asking the same questions.  I appreciate Andrew Sullivan's writings--I think he has written on torture more than just about anyone.  Here, in his article, Christianity in Crisis, he really examines the crisis of the faith, from the decline among Catholics to the disappearing mainline protestants to the evangelical protestantism.  But, as he notes, that evangelical protestantism is part of our problem, not part of the solution.  Not only do they embrace anti-intellectualism in just about every area of life, but an almost mindless authoritarianism.
And what group of Americans have pollsters found to be most supportive of torturing terror suspects? Evangelical Christians. Something has gone very wrong. These are impulses born of panic in the face of modernity, and fear before an amorphous “other.” This version of Christianity could not contrast more strongly with Jesus’ constant refrain: “Be not afraid.”
I have said to my evangelical friends that very phrase, "something has gone very wrong," and they just shake their head and insist that everything is fine.  But it isn't fine.  The most vocal followers of Christ are more interested in shaming women then preventing abortions.  They are more interested in protecting tax cuts for the rich than helping people rise out of poverty.  And they cheer the prospect of millions without health insurance.  Something very much fucked up about that.

One of my friends chastised me for my frustration during Holy Week.  He seemed to think I need to just focus on the meaning Easter has, and somehow look away from the rest.  But I can't easily do that.  I can't just turn my face from the attacks on the poor and women.  And, quite frankly, I won't.  I find great commonality in Sullivan's discussion of searching for God.  But I know he doesn't force women to have transvaginal ultrasounds against their will.  And he doesn't turn away from the hungry infant, or the sick mother.  If you expect me to just put on a nice suit for Easter and ignore all of that, then you don't know me.

Sullivan has hope for the faith:
This Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement. And it is not afraid. In the anxious, crammed lives of our modern twittering souls, in the materialist obsessions we cling to for security in recession, in a world where sectarian extremism threatens to unleash mass destruction, this sheer Christianity, seeking truth without the expectation of resolution, simply living each day doing what we can to fulfill God’s will, is more vital than ever. It may, in fact, be the only spiritual transformation that can in the end transcend the nagging emptiness of our late-capitalist lives, or the cult of distracting contemporaneity, or the threat of apocalyptic war where Jesus once walked. 
For this Holy Week, that is a good place to start.

April 6, 2012

Dear GOP, how do I help the fertilized egg without helping the slut carrying it?

Dear GOP,

As a new conservative, I am trying very hard to wrap my mind around uphold the Republican party's stance on issues.  I understand I am only supposed to care about the fertilized egg, because, as Oklahoma's legislature has decreed, it is a "person" with "14th Amendment rights."

I also understand that we need to ignore the suffering of the disabled, poor, and hungry infants cut taxes for the "job creators" and simply don't care can't afford to help everyone.

But since I do care about the fertilized egg (person) and would like to help him, her it, how do I help that fertilized egg person without helping (and therefore encouraging) the slut carrying help him, her it?  What if the fertilized egg person has severe disabilities or may not survive to be ignored as an infant?  What do I do then?  Obviously, the slut carrying it has no say here--that goes without saying.  (Which is why I said it.)  Nor, of course, do all infants.  But what if that fertilized egg person needs expensive healthcare?  I know we don't believe in healthcare for individuals, so if that egg person is now a "person," it doesn't qualify for healthcare either, right?  After all, we can't ask the job creators to pay for that.  That would be ridiculous and quite possibly Socialism.  Or Communism.  Or Fascism.  Or Kenyanism.

Here is hoping you all have a happy Easter.  Now is the time to remember the torture enhanced interrogation techniques that our Lord endured for our sake.  Oh wait, that doesn't sound right at all.