Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

So finally, as I predicted, gay marriage is now legal in all fifty states.  And as anyone could have expected, we're now seeing the collective backlash from those who think they're being persecuted because something they think is a sin is now legal.  They insist America is a Christian nation, and that this was a mistake by the Supreme Court.  We're not and it wasn't, but I digress.

To those of you who do think America is a Christian nation, I say: be careful what you wish for.  You want to see gay marriage illegal because of something you read in Leviticus?  Have you really thought this through?  I don't think you have.

There's lots of things that are legal in these United States whilst being expressly forbidden in the Bible: working on the Sabbath, coveting, divorce, eating pork and shellfish, marrying people of different faiths, atheism, taking the lord's name in vain, and so on.  Open any book of the bible, and you're bound to see things that are forbidden happening in broad daylight.  

We're a godless nation, ladies and gentlemen.  We're free to have our own views on a god, but as a nation we are not beholding to any one person or group's interpretation of whether there is a god, or what we ought to do to stay on their good side.  Our government cannot ever, must not ever kowtow to any one religious group's views on "how things ought to be".  That way lies madness.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we did capitulate and declare this a Christian nation, beholding only to the Bible as the final arbiter of truth and justice.  Let's say that Leviticus, since it served you so well on this gay marriage issue, now dictates right and wrong on a national scale.  Say goodbye to Red Lobster, pepperoni pizza, shopping on Saturday or Sundays (pick one), men trimming their beards, women holding leadership positions in anything...

You see where this is going?  Does it seem like freedom to you?  Does it seem American?  Folks, one of the caveats of living in a free country is that there will be people who have different opinions on things, and despite that, they have all the same rights you do.  Republicans and Democrats, Christians and non-Christians, Jew and gentile, black and white, gay and straight.  Not every country can say that, and if you think we made a mistake as a nation by legalizing gay marriage, you're cordially invited to visit one of these countries.  Iran and Saudi Arabia come to mind, as does Russia, China, and a few others.

Gay Americans are citizens, and have - and should have had all along - the same rights as straight people.  We've got a ways to go on our path to a more perfect union, but the fact is freedom is antithetical to a lot of religions.  My freedom to reject the divinity of Christ, say the bible is not the word of god, and reject the church altogether does not make me any less patriotic than you.  In fact, you might say that exercising the right to say such blasphemous things is in itself a patriotic act.  

We're about to celebrate our nation's birthday in a few days, and we're reminded of what it means to be an American.  Yes, cherish it.  You're free.  But so is the person next to you.  And those weirdos at the end of the block.  And that's the price we pay.  And if you can't handle it, if you're not ready to extend the same liberties you cherish as an American to every single person in America, then I say: you're not ready to live in a free country, and you don't deserve it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Morning After, 2014

The results of the 2014 elections are, to me, a disappointment.  Not only because Republicans took control of the Senate, although that seems to be what’s grabbing all the attention.  CNN seems to think the blame falls squarely on Obama (because of course it does), but I disagree.  I don't see yesterday's results as a rejection of the Left's policies as much as I see it as a willingness to accept the lies and propaganda that try to twist Obama's performance into looking worse that it really is.

The problem is not that the economy is doing poorly.  I hear Right Wing pundits on the AM radio shrieking about how the economy is circling the drain, and I want to ask "by what standard is that true?"  At last count, we've experienced 63 straight months of economic growth.  The stock market is setting new record highs all the time.  We avoided a second Great Depression.  Unemployment has fallen from over ten percent in 2009 to under six percent in 2014.  Millions of Americans who couldn't get health insurance before the ACA passed now have it.  So this idea that Americans voted for change because their confidence in the economy or the overall direction of the country was shaky just shows me that people aren't bothering to educate themselves on the facts.  Fox News tells you the economy is bad, without bothering to qualify that or report on stories that might make them seem wrong, and Middle America buys into it.  So they jump ship without bothering to learn they're being lied to.

I’m not really surprised that red states stayed red.  Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, to me they’re all lost causes.  They wear their ignorance as a badge of honor.  Their willingness to believe whatever Kool-Aid the right wing serves up makes them supremely deserving of their bottom-of-the-barrel status for job growth, education, etc.

What I find telling is, that despite the apparent shift to the right that last night’s election might seem to represent, ballot initiatives throughout the country showed support for what have traditionally been progressive causes: minimum wage increases in various states were approved, women’s access to abortion was upheld in all but one state, pot was legalized in two states and the District of Columbia.  There were even initiatives passed to more closely regulate the sale of guns at gun shows.

So to me, America is not getting more conservative, but they are demonstrating a willingness to be led astray by false reports about the terrible economy, and the need to get rid of the Democrats that are causing it.  What made me truly sad was how the Right Wing demonized Obama by using him as an attack tactic for Democratic congressmen and women: “so-and-so voted with Obama a whole bunch of times, and that makes them bad”.  But even that wasn't as bad as the Democrats taking those criticisms, and lacking the sack to simply stand up and say “yes, I support the President, and I believe I made the right choice, then and now.  We’re better off in a lot of ways now than we were in 2008.  You don’t have to like Obama on a personal level to agree that this decision or that decision was the right one.  So feel any way you want to about Obama the man.  But ask yourself this: is not liking a person a good enough reason to disagree with them?  In the end, if we as a nation are better off, and heading the right direction, does it really matter how you feel about the guy who’s making that happen?

The 2014 election was about hype over substance.  It was about innuendo trumping truth.  It was about fears overcoming facts.  We as a nation, had been (up until yesterday) generally on the right track.  We've abandoned that in favor of unsubstantiated fears and baseless propaganda.  We've laid back and let the Right Wing brain-rape us into thinking we needed change.  We didn't.

Good luck, America. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Confronting Racism in the Miss America Pageant

So we have a new Miss America, and she is of Indian descent.  Disappointingly, the Twitterverse had a collective hissy fit, with racists scurrying around telling us what a travesty this all was.

The level of intelligence in racists is staggeringly low.  But beyond that is the pervasive understanding that Miss America is best being given to blonde haired, blue eyed knockouts.  I'm old enough to remember when Vanessa Williams won in the early 80's, and how people complained then, too.  So's we're clear: America doesn't love the blonde-haired, blue-eyed people better - that's Nazi Germany you're thinking of.

I posted this as a comment on the story at Buzzfeed.com, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Top Ten Reasons Why These People Are Idiots:

 10. America is a nation of folks whose ancestors (mostly) all came here from somewhere else. That includes yours. (Does anyone know the Cherokee word for "hypocrite"?)
9. Saudi Arabia is about 600 miles (at its closest) to India. Calling an Indian an Arab betrays a huge ignorance of geography. (Google will let you look at maps for free...)
8. India had nothing to do with 9/11. (Neither did Iraq, but hey, whatever.)

7. Any sentence that starts with "I swear I'm not racist, but..." needn't be finished. Yes, yes you are a racist.

6. India is in Asia, dingus. There is no "Indian or Asian". That's like saying "Canadian or North American".  If you're not sure, you're probably better off not saying anything.

5. Egypt? What has Egypt got to do with it? See #9, only add another 300 miles.

4. The 7-11 reference was about as stupid as you can possibly be and still have the motor skills needed to actually type.

3. If she was in al Qaeda, no way would they allow her to parade around in a bikini in public.

2. P.F. Chang's? Seriously? Are India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China all just one big country to you?

And the #1 Reason Why These People Are Idiots:

1. Because they give a shit about the Miss America Pageant in the first place.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Have a Dream, Too

Today is the 50th annoversary of the Civil Rights march on Washington, when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his iconic "I have a dream" speech.  And while it cannot be argued that we as a nation have made strides in racial relations, much work needs to be done.

But race aside, I thought this would be a good day to reflect on my dreams for this country.  I love America, it is my home, but I can still love it and find fault.  Parents do it all the time with their kids.  And like a concerned parent, I want what's best for my country, I want to see it succeed, and I want it to have a bright future.

That said, here's my take on this:
  • I have a dream that one day our greatness as a nation will not be measured by the strength of our army but by our ability to care for our own.
  • I have a dream that the education our children need will be provided for them free of charge, for as far as they wish to go in school.
  • I have a dream where the health of our citizens is a higher priority than how much money can be made from it.
  • I have a dream where the rights of other to live freely and without judgement or interference is absolute, provided that no harm is being done.
  • I have a dream where "liberty and justice for all" is taken seriously.
  • I have a dream that someday we care more about the environment than we do about profits.
  • I have a dream that racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are bad memories.
  • I have a dream where people keep their religions to themselves.
  • I have a dream that someday teachers' salaries are consistent with the level of training, time and dedication it takes.
  • I have a dream where people turn off their televisions, computers, etc., and go outside for some fresh air, make new friends and organically interact with their fellow man.
  • I have a dream where our military is only employed to defend our own borders, coastlines and air space.  I want to live in a country that does not see itself as the hall monitor of the world.
  • I have a dream where diplomacy is recognized as the most effective tool for resolving conflicts.
What is your dream?

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Ideas for Keeping the Government on a Tight Leash

Not to sound too idealistic, but I thought the government of the United States was supposed to be working for us, the little guys (and girls).  Did I miss a memo?  A lot of what comes from them seems to be edicts from on high to us, the unwashed masses.  They seem to have lost sight of who's working for who.  Over half the members of Congress are millionaires – who are they supposed to be representing here?  Not me.

Look, we send these men and women to Washington with a simple order: fight for us.  And many seem to have an altogether different purpose.  Perhaps it’s time we set up some rules to ensure that these people remember who brought them to the dance in the first place.
With that in mind, I humbly offer the following revisions to the deal we give elected officials in Congress:

  • Your income will reflect the average income of your constituency, as per IRS records.  If your people are poor, so are you.  Let’s see you fight for better jobs now, douchebags.

  • If both houses of Congress and the President sign off on a balanced budget, you get a $100,000 bonus.  If you fail to get a balanced budget through, then you get a 10% pay cut.  Watch a bunch of people get very good at math, very quickly.

  • Re: campaign ads: if you put out an ad making claims about your opponent that are proven to be false by an independent panel, then you forfeit the election.  No exceptions.

  • You pay 50% towards your health insurance, and only after being on the job for 90 days.  We the people will pay the other 50%.  And you get the same crappy Blue Cross HMO the rest of us get.  Have fun with that.

  • You (and your family) are forbidden to make additional income from book deals, public speaking or other sideline ventures during your tenure as a Congressman.  If you do, that money gets donated and split evenly between PBS and Planned Parenthood.  You need extra money?  Get a paper route.

  • Any campaign fund raising you do goes to a pool used for all candidates, not just you or your party.  Hard to get enthusiastic about those $10,000 a plate dinners when you know some of it may be going to the other side of the aisle.

  • Any money you take away from education, the poor, the elderly, or the sick in the budget, you must take an identical amount – in percentage – from the military budget.  Fair’s fair.

  • Incumbent Congressmen should be required to be re-elected by more than a simple majority.  If it’s for a second term, you should have to win by 60%, a third term would require a 70% vote and so on.  The idea that we’ve got six-and-seven-term Senators is just a bad idea.  Let’s get some fresh blood in there.

  • No retirement pension unless you produced a balanced budget during every year you serve.  Go make a living like the rest of us, you freeloaders.
These are are just a few thoughts on keeping our elected representatives playing fair.  What are yours?

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Comes the Prophecies

Having been re-classified as "irrelevant" and "out of touch" by the majority of the electorate this week, the political dodo bird that is the Republican Party has wasted no time in telling us how we'll be sorry.  They're like the crazy ex, standing on the sidewalk at two in the morning, drunk, screaming up at your bedroom window, "they'll never love you like I do, you bitch!".

Yeesh, enough already.  Let it go.  There will be other elections, you know?

But rather than take what happened on Tuesday as an object lesson, a cautionary tale, an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, they want us to understand that it was our mistake, not theirs.  We screwed up.  They were right, and we were wrong.  And now we're going to pay for our folly.  They're predicting the end of everything good and sacred in America (if it's not gone already), massive inflation, another recession, double-digit unemployment, terrorist attacks, plagues of locusts, you name it. 

But before we sink too deeply into buyers' remorse, let's take a moment to consider their history when it comes to prophecies:
  • They also told us Iraq had WMD's.  Hans Blix and those inept U.N. weapons inspectors were wrong and we were right.  They had pictures and everything.  How'd that work out for us?
  • They told us Iraq would be a "slam dunk" and we'd be in and out of there in six weeks. 
  • They told us we would be greeted as liberators.
  • They received a memo on August 4 2001 entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S." and said "no chance".
  • They told us that cutting taxes for the wealthy would spur economic growth and reduce unemployment.
  • They told us they could prove Obama was born in Kenya.
  • They predicted Romney would win in a landslide.
To be sure, Democrats make predictions that don't come true as well. We all do. But usually Democrats' failed prophecies don't get innocent Americans killed or cost us trillions of dollars.
So believe whatever you want, but before you buy into the Romney camp's Doomsday prophecy for America, ask yourself, is there any reason to take them seriously on anything?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why Are Republicans Losing (Again)?

So the results are in, and even with arithmetically-challenged Florida's lack of willingness to commit, the GOP got shellacked.  With the exception of the Tea Party Fluke of 2010, this is the third election in the past four cycles where the country has sent the Republicans a message: thanks, but no thanks.

Why?  Are we still that bitter over Bush?  Well, some of are.  But we Democrats try to focus on what's ahead.  We only look over our shoulder when it's about remembering what to avoid going forward.

Watching the GOP go through its five stages of grief, I think I can see the fatal flaw in their logic: they're stuck in denial.  Losing (badly) on Tuesday does not seem to have shaken them out of their dream state either.  So in the interest of helping the wounded opponent off the field, I have some advice to offer, maybe a little insight as to why they keep getting hammered: they aren't really Republicans.

The way I see it, they're not about fiscal responsibility, not really. They're not conservatives when it comes to spending money. If that were the case, we'd be seeing balanced budgets coming out of the Republican controlled House of Representatives. We're not. They like spending money just as much as Democrats do, maybe even more. The differences are, they think we can promise tax cuts across the board and it won't affect the bottom line, and they just want to spend the money on other things, like war and drilling for oil.

Republicans claim they're all about personal responsibility and keeping government small, but ask them how they feel about gay marriage, and see how intrusive they think the government ought to be. Ask them about gay couples adopting. Ask them about abortion. Ask them about legalizing (and taxing) marijuana. Suddenly these "small government, personal responsibility" Republicans reveal themselves to be anything but. They think that being a "social conservative" makes them a Republican. It doesn't. It just means they're scared of change and want to go back to the 1950's morality. But we're past all that, and there's no going back.

In point of fact, there hasn't been a Republican who lived up to the party's ideals since Eisenhower. This current crop of pretenders that claim to be Republicans have no idea what the word actually means. If they did, and if they acted out those principles, there might actually be a contrast in the candidates at election time worth discussing.  During the final Presidential debate, most of Romney's responses to Obama amounted to "I agree with him, but I'm white."  The Republicans, furious over a President who would support universal health care and gay marriage, nominated a candidate who, as governor, supported universal health care and gay marriage.  To the undecided voters out there who refuse to pledge allegiance to either party, this choice was a transparent farce.  Republicans can easily establish themselves as a true alternative by insisting on staying mum on social issues and making themselves about balanced budgets (with or without lowering taxes).

If the GOP wants to return to relevence, they're going to have to be willing to re-define what it means to be a Republican. Let go of the social conservatism and focus instead on balanced budgets.  Cut spending on big-ticket things like wars (particularly the unnecessary ones). De-funding PBS and Planned Parenthood is not the path to fiscal solvency. Quit voting yourselves raises, at least until you get unemployment down to 4%.  Make getting Americans back to work your #1 priority. Start taxing the rich and corporations, make them pay their fair share (fair, meaning the same tax rate the Middle Class pays in personal income tax).

Otherwise, just find something else to call yourselves, because your current game plan (which is a losing one, in case you hadn't noticed) is not a Republican one.