Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Final Thoughts on Christmas

Tomorrow night we ring in 2009, and I for one will be glad to be rid of 2008 once and for all. This new year will see, if nothing else, the exit of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from any relevant political landscape. That alone makes 2009 worth looking forward to, in my opinion.

Like many of you, I have just finished up the Christmas celebrations. True, the tree still stands in my living room, in front of the window to declare to all passers-by, "hey out there! We're celebrating Christmas in here!" The stockings are still hung, and by all accounts the holiday season is still in full swing. But yesterday as I hauled the trash cans to the curb, bursting with wadded up wrapping paper, I felt a sense of closure. It's like when all the sporting events end at the Olympics, but they still have yet to do the closing ceremonies. For me, that will be tomorrow night. After January 1st, we collectively run out of excuses for slacking off - Christmas is over, Hanukkah's done, I'm pretty sure Kwanzaa is over, and the Solstice has come and gone.

Which brings me to a confession: I'm not a Christian. Neither is my wife. We were both raised Christian, in the Protestant stick-up-the-ass way north easterners have done since the Puritans showed up way back forever ago. We don't go to church, we don't believe in the divinity of Christ, and even if we did, we know there's no way Jesus could have been born at this time of year. Think about it - "Shepherds were watching over their flocks by night." In a field? In Israel? Not to bust your bubble, but it gets pretty damn nippy out Bethlehem ways this time of year, and it did 2000 years ago too. At night, this time of year the sheep were in their pens huddled for warmth.

I could go on, picking at all the loose threads in the Nativity account, graduating to the Bible in general, and then into Church thinking for the past few centuries. In the end, we are left with a simple premise: it doesn't matter if you can prove a belief system true or untrue. Jesus could show up tomorrow in all his Second Coming finery and there would still be doubters. Early versions of the Bible could be dug up with a final book called The Gospel According to Just Kidding, and there would still be staunch believers. Debating the absolute validity or lack thereof is a pointless exercise.

So why, with all my cynicism towards Christianity, do I choose to join in their celebration December 25Th? Well not to put too fine a point on it, but it was never "their" celebration to begin with. It's well known that early Christians nicked the Solstice celebration from the Celts and injected Jesus in a manger. The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. It was traditionally celebrated with lots and lots of candlelight for obvious reasons, but moreover it was celebrated because even back then, they were able to pinpoint the time of year when the days started getting longer - the first step to spring. Sure, there's going to be a few more weeks of scraping the ice of your windshield for my relatives back east (neener neener) but the mere fact that this ass-bitingly cold day lasted a few minutes longer than yesterday's ass-bitingly cold day tells us there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope springs eternal.

And this is what we celebrate here at the Nutty Irishman's humble adobe. New life, the promise of spring, even the most subtle whisper that winter's days are numbered. And as we enter a new year, with a new President poised to take over it is indeed a time to celebrate the promise of new life and change. As we collectively say goodbye to eight years of bleak ideological winter for all thinking people and lovers of peace, we welcome the spring back into sanity, returning once again to peace and intelligent discourse.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Doomed from the Start?

I sincerely hope not.

President-elect Obama has had more face time with the press than the actual President over the last two weeks. Bush set new records for most vacation time ever taken by a President. So now that we're basically just watching clock waiting for him to be on permanent vacation, he raises the bar on Lame Duckery. Honestly, does he know we're still paying his salary? It seems like between Bush abdicating his duties as President and Obama officially restrained from doing anything, we are a nation without a president.

It's just as well, as far as I'm concerned. A nation with no President at all is infinitely better than a nation with George W. Bush in charge. I've made no secret of my opinions here. I believe George W. Bush's presidency to be the worst thing to happen to our nation since the assassination of John Kennedy. Worse than 9/11, worse than Vietnam, worse than Watergate. Every day we inch towards the post-Bush era I breathe a little easier and become a little more optimistic about our nation's future.

So when it comes to President-Elect Obama, I cannot help but be optimistic. Bush lowered expectations across the board, and we not only tolerated it, we re-elected him. I have a theory that in years to come historians will refer to this as the Era of Mediocrity. We allowed ourselves to be led by a C-student, and we totally abandoned our quest for excellence as a nation. In doing so, we now have an economy that is circling the drain. We have a list of nations that hate us far outnumbering our allies. We have debt unimagined. We are, as a nation guilty of war crimes so multiple and egregious that we may never be the Good Guys again. We have collectively gone rogue from our own founding principles of liberty and freedom, let alone prosperity.

All Obama has to do to achieve greatness in the wake of the Bush Years is not screw up any worse. And screwing up worse than Bush did would require a lethal combination of creativity and psychosis. Obama, it seems, is only creative. Alas.

The thing is, Obama is getting roundly criticized by the Collective Right Wing Peanut Gallery (CRWPG), the same group that managed to stick its fingers in their ears for the past eight years and drown out any valid criticisms of Bush. Watching Fox News handle Bush's many blunders essentially boiled down to "LA LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA". Anyone not willing to swallow the Kool-Aid was deemed to be part of the liberal media conspiracy. Watching Fox News was like the cop waving people past a scene of carnage and assuring us "move along, people - nothing to see here".

These same "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" acolytes have uncorked their collective suspicion and turned it to a man who isn't even in charge yet. Believe me when I tell you there is already a website called - weeks before he's had a chance to do anything remotely impeachable. Now, I can appreciate cynicism and I've often confused pessimism with being realistic, but this is too much. The more Obama's people talk about hope, the less his opponents seem to have.

In terms of Obama's cabinet picks, he gets criticism in both fresh faces he chooses (inexperienced newbies bound to screw up with rookie mistakes) and the more experienced people he picks (corrupt insiders that prove Obama never really meant to bring change anyhow). When Obama chose L.A.'s mayor Villaraigosa to be a part of his economic advisory team, people who already didn't like the Mayor said that this was proof that Obama was out to destroy our nation's economy. I saw it as a validation of Villaraigosa's job as mayor.

The point: There's always two ways to look at things, and in the case of President-elect Obama, I say this: the guy isn't even running things yet. He hasn't signed one bill into law. He hasn't addressed Congress or the American People as their President. He is using the time after the election to get his act together so that once he take the Oath of Office he can get to work immediately. And perhaps, just perhaps, we ought to suspend criticism of him until he's actually done something as President.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bailing Out the Auto Industry Now?

When the government decided to give $700 billion to the failing bank industry, I kept quiet. I'm a big believer in keeping my mouth shut unless I have something valuable to contribute to a discussion. I know zero about banking and finance, and my little brain can scarcely comprehend how much money $700 billion actually is.

But like many of you, I drive. In L.A., you pretty much have to drive. So when I heard that Bailout 2: the Sequel had the American auto industry in mind, it got me to thinking. Like you, I've seen the news for the last few years. I've seen the reports of Ford, GM and Chrysler losing money, closing plants, and laying off their workers. Michael Moore started out with a documentary called "Roger and Me", which I recommend watching if you haven't already.

In the United States, people are more likely to be driving a Honda or a Toyota than a Ford or Chevy. Why is this? Simple. They are better values. We are capitalists, which means we don't believe in pissing hard-earned money away, even for patriotic reasons. We're not rich, and when we buy a car we take three basic things into consideration: initial cost (sticker price), gas mileage, and maintenance costs. Whichever car best suits our needs both in practical and financial terms is the one we typically choose. The final truth there is this: Honda's and Toyota's are comparably priced, get better gas mileage, and are less likely to break down that their American counterparts. My Honda has about 175,000 miles on it, and apart from some dings and dents, runs like a champ. It still gets about 25 miles per gallon, which is better than a lot of new cars. When the time comes to replace it, you can believe I will be looking at Honda's and Toyota's first.

Back in the early 1980's when Chrysler was on the ropes, Lee Iaccoca was made chairman. He pretty much rebuilt the company back into relevance. One of the ways he did this was with the "K Car". For those of you too young to remember the K Car, it was this boxy little sedan, nothing particularly gorgeous, but not ugly either: it looked typical for cars of that era. It ran about average, looked about average, and didn't stand out in any particular way except one: it got 41 miles per gallon highway. This was unheard of, at least for American cars. In those days, if you wanted a gas sipper, you bought Japanese. The car sold like crazy, to people eager to "buy American" but anxious to get a bargain at the pumps.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the Big Three has come out with a car since that gets 41 mpg highway. And that's a shame, because gas has only gotten more expensive. I've often wondered if there isn't some arrangement with the American automakers and the gas companies. But that's another paranoid rant for another day.

It should also be mentioned that Ford makes car models specifically for the European market that get considerably better gas mileage. The rationale here is that Europeans pay a lot more for their gasoline then Americans do, so for Ford to remain competitive they have to market cars to the Europeans that address this. That's sweet and all, but it raises two points in my mind: first, Americans are paying been paying much higher prices for gas lately. Secondly, whatever happened to root, root, root for the home team? I hate to tug at Ford's patriotic heartstrings, but why are they showing love to the Europeans by giving them better cars, and then asking our government to bail them out? Dude, go ask the EU, since you seem to give them better cars anyway.

The only thing that is going to save the American car makers is innovation. For too long, they have sold us those towering SUV's. Unsafe, way too big and wasteful with gas, they represent their owners here in America. We too are unsafe - we're now fighting "pre-emptive" wars in countries based on dubious (and what turned out to be bad) intelligence. We're way too big for our britches - we go around acting like the world's police and unofficial hall monitor, assured of our moral superiority as we waterboard hapless saps from third world countries. And we're gas hogs - we produce 3% of the world's petroleum while we consume 25%. Cars like the Humvee have come to symbolize America's simultaneous overblown sense of entitlement and need to assert itself in the faces of everyone else.

I propose that if the automakers here in America want to wet their beaks at the nation's tax coffers, that it come with a list of conditions that reflect our needs.
  • First off, don't bother making cars that get anything less than 25 miles per gallon. That eliminates a big chunk of the fleet, and I say good riddance. It's not the size of the vehicle that I find distasteful - it's what it represents - the notion that we assert our dominance through our vehicles, that we have an endless supply of gasoline, that we need not concern ourselves with pollution, leave that for the tree-huggers.
  • Second - hybrids. Here's a thought. If Americans don't want to drive a Prius because the shape of it is a little too much of a departure, fine. Let's do this - we'll make hybrid versions of all existing American car models. Hybrid Mustangs, hybrid Corvettes, hybrid Ford pickup trucks. We've already seen how Cadillac is coming out with a hybrid Escalade, and Chevrolet has a hybrid Malibu. Good for you, guys. Now follow it through to its conclusion.
  • Also, as a thank-you to the taxpayers that allowed their hard-earned money to bail you out, you will give standard ten-year warranties on all models sold in the States. We're not going to be nickel and dimed to death with crappy cars after we kept you afloat.
  • And finally, every gas-sipping EuroFord and EuroGM car currently tooling its way up and down the Autobahn will be made available to Americans within twelve months. Retrofitting all those shut-down plants in places like Flint Michigan will not only create jobs in the short run, but it will create a sustainable future for American carmakers. If it was innovation that made us #1 back in the day, it will be innovation that saves us.

Think of it this way: the Day of the Humvee is done. Now we enter the Day of the Economy Car. You already make them, and make them well, from what I hear. Now you're going to retrofit all those Yukon XL and Humvee assembly lines around the world to make cars we really need. We'll figure out how to haul our soccer practice gear around in smaller cars, and you'll realize the basics of the free market: if you make stuff people can't afford and don't need, you're going to go out of business. If you make cars we need and can afford, you'll never have to ask anyone for a handout again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gay is the New Left Handed

So roughly 10% of people are left-handed. Maybe less, depending on who you ask. And in centuries gone by, it was generally decided that left-handedness was a sign of evil. People quoted scripture to "prove" that God didn't approve of people eating and writing with their left hands. Therefore, good Christian parents and schoolteachers took it upon themselves to stifle any tendencies in their children towards left-handedness. This included tying their left arms to their sides or behind their back, to force them to use their right hands. In the 1600's, when witch trials were prevalent, lefties were often accused of witchcraft (and convicted, and executed) for no other reason than their dominant hand.

In the Bible, Matthew Chapter 25 sees Jesus telling about Judgement Day, when God separates the nations into two group: the "sheep", who go to heaven for their goodness, are gathered on God's right side. The "goats", those doomed to Hell, get to gather on God's left side. The implication was clear. Left=Devil, right=God. Therefore, lefties were evil.

Even today, there are subtle reminders in our languages of the generally negative view held on left-handedness. "Gauche", a term generally understood to mean tacky or inappropriate, is literally the French word for "left". Sinister also literally means left-handed. Say the right thing, but in the wrong way? That would be an example of a "left-handed compliment". Bad dancer? You must have... say it with me... two left feet.

And so it goes. It makes a certain amount of sense, sociologically speaking. Lefties are the minority. Anthropologically speaking, the majority in any society gangs up on the minority and demonizes them. Sometimes they use religion as an justification, sometimes they use more practical and mundane reasoning to ostracize these heretical creatures.

We saw examples of this "us versus them" mentality in race relations, as "minorities" were grouped together to mean anyone non-white. Ironically, if you group all those non-white people into one group, they actually make up the majority in many cases. But to outnumber a group, throughout history, is to claim not only superiority in numbers, but moral superiority as well. "Our way of life" gets threatened any time a minority group rises up and demands equal footing. We saw in the 1950's and 60's, as civil rights became an issue, white people (the majority) fret over their way of life being in jeopardy as the minority (non-whites) began to insist on losing their second-class status. White leaders railed against this threat to the status quo, warning all that to allow blacks and whites to intermingle unchecked would bring about the ruin of civilized society. Forty years later, in lieu of the aforementioned Apocalypse, it must be admitted that allowed equality among the races was not the undoing we were warned it would be.

In 1997 it was discovered once and for all that left-handedness is a genetic trait. They mapped it in DNA, and this is significant because it established once and for all that left-handedness was not some scheme cooked up by evil people. It was not a subtle sign to other evil doers. It was a predisposition - a tendency from birth to favor the left hand and foot. In lefties, there was a natural grace and skill demonstrated on the left side that the right could not match. Pretty much exactly the same as everyone else, only reversed.

Left-handedness was not contagious. It was not a flaw. It was not to be discouraged in children. It was not harmful to others. It didn't make one less religious, less honest, less wholesome. There was simply no downside to being left-handed, other than managing to successfully maneuver in a right-handed world.

I know, I know: so what, right? What does ANY of this have to do with the gay thing? We're not talking about something as innocuous as how you sign your name here, are we?

Are we?

Let me ask you this: if you have gay and lesbian friends, family or co-workers, what part of their lifestyle has been forced onto you? Have they made you watch them having sex? Probably not. What about lurid tales of their bedroom escapades - have they forced you to listen to those? I doubt it. Have you ever seen a homosexual passing out literature on the glories of sodomy at the local grade school? I think not. So if they haven't forced you to watch them actually practicing their homosexuality, they haven't forced you to listen to them describe it, and they haven't tried to indoctrinate your kids, how has their sexuality impacted you?

Simple answer: it hasn't. Other than the you knowing they're gay, you have nothing to go on. The "Gay Agenda", as far as I can tell, consists of much the same stuff the Straight Agenda does: Get up, go to work, pay your bills, spend time with friends and loved ones, try to be happy. Lather, rinse, repeat. I know they aren't planning world domination. They're way too outnumbered. And just to revisit the "gays around your kids" thing... did anyone NOT have a gay teacher at some point? Maybe they didn't announce it ("Attention class, I am a practicing homosexual, and if you'd like to know more, I have an array of colorful pamphlets to fill you in"), but you just knew. The stereotyped lesbian gym teacher, the sensitive and perhaps even effeminate male English teacher or drama coach... we all had some exposure to homosexuality in our childhoods. Before we became sexually aware ourselves, the fact that someone was gay was probably a non-issue. We didn't understand it, we didn't care. We heard things and people called "gay" by our classmates to indicate they were bad. By the time we actually understood what "gay" really meant, we had associated so much negativity with it, that it was hard to be objective when dealing with actual homosexuals - people who not only admitted being "gay" but seemed to be proud of it. Add to all that some Bible verses that make God seem displeased with gays, and you've got all the makings for a good old-fashioned torches and pitchforks mob.

And that's what we got with Proposition 8. Prop 8 amends the California State Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. No doubt the courts will chew this up and spit it out like so much bubble gum. It's a blatant attempt to single out the gays from having the right to marry. The opponents of gay marriage say that they're "defending" traditional marriage. I'm sorry, but you force me to call bullshit on this one. Traditional marriage? Does that mean I'm legally allowed to beat my wife now? Traditionally, that was the deal. What about divorce? In the traditional context of marriage, divorce was not just frowned upon, it was illegal. And yet there was no mention of abolishing divorce from the "traditional marriage" crowd.

Then they tried to scare us with the best possible weapon, and it worked: kids. If Prop 8 fails, and gay marriages continue, we were told, kids will be forced to learn about/accept/go to gay weddings. All your wholesome upbringing as parents will be undone. Teachers will be teaching your little Johnny and Mary all about the wonders of sodomy, complete with full color slide shows. All this is rubbish of course. But just like the makers of "Poltergeist" and "The Exorcist", the anti-gay marriage crowd knew that the quickest and easiest way to freak people out was to put some innocent kid in jeopardy. So they cooked up some fantasy scenario where your kid gets systematically corrupted, indoctrinated with "gay is good, gay is normal, gay is fine", until they run home from school and proudly announce "Mommy, Daddy, I'm GAY!" To the parent who feared such a scenario, I say relax: that won't happen until the second year of college.

So gays today are pretty much the lefties of a century ago: outcasts, demonized, a threat to your wholesome Christian world. I wonder, when we finally isolate the DNA nugget that determines sexual preference, will we then finally let it go? Or will we then seek out a new minority to demonize? I suspect the latter. But until then, we always have Massachusetts. Interesting to me, that Massachusetts was in many ways the birthplace of our nation's freedom. In Lexington and Concord, colonists took up arms against British soldiers - representatives of what was at the time the most powerful empire on the planet. These colonists had no military training. What they had was a belly full of being pushed around. In Boston Harbor, other colonists let it be known that they had had enough as well. Massachusetts has a history of taking a stand against tyranny, and it is fitting that this state, if no other, represents the vocal minority demanding that gay marriage be legal. I suspect that after a few years of gay marriages squeaking through, we will finally realize that married gay people in America is not the sign of its undoing, any more than desegregation was in the 1960's.

The majority throughout our history had threatened us with doom whenever the status quo is upset. Society, they would have us believe, is a house of cards, ready to collapse at a moment's notice. We must therefore tread carefully, loathe to upset the delicate balance. But from the abolition of slavery through women's suffrage, on through McCarthyism and the civil rights movement, we have seen our status quo adjust itself to society's revelations. We have, over the past two centuries, evolved from a nation where only white male land owners had a voice to one of remarkable equality. And while we are certainly not perfect, and while injustice still rears its ugly head, we have refined our understanding of what freedom really means.

There will be gay marriage. All that Prop 8 did was delay it. It is a temper tantrum thrown by those scared of change. Some people will never accept gay marriage, any more than they accept interracial marriage. But the laws of the land insist on freedom for all, and even if it takes a few more years. Massachusetts will serve as it has in the past, as a voice crying out for change in the wilderness. And as state after state takes up the battle cry, we will once again emerge from the cocoon of our own fear and ignorance to blossom into a more perfect union.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why Isn't There a Liberal Christian Left Wing?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really a big fan of "ism's" and labeling. I think pigeon-holing people or beliefs overly simplifies them. I think stereotyping is a sign of lazy thinking. Show me the people who look beyond the superficial labels and delve into the heart of a matter, and I'll show you someone interesting. And for me to call someone or something "interesting" is a huge compliment. As you may have already gathered, I bore easily.

With that in mind, I was thinking about the conservative Christian right wing. They have been a part of our political landscape for almost thirty years. They've been very successful in organizing their ranks to vote in lockstep, and that voting bloc has wielded considerable influence in elections from the local city councils to the President. Ronald Reagan was perhaps the first to cash in on the benefits of sucking up to this group. Even years after his death they still sing his praises for bringing wholesome, moral, common-sense values back into American mainstream after the zany 60's and 70's.

As near as I can tell, the CCRW (Conservative Christian Right Wing) was against abortion, against gay rights, pro-gun, pro-military, pro-family etc. They were a big part of getting warning labels put on rock albums, warning parents of the explicit content. They were represented by groups such as the Moral Majority, headed by the late Jerry Falwell.

On this election day, we may be seeing the death of the CCRW. Here in California, we may once and for all legitimize gay marriage. That coupled with the election of a pro-choice President would signal that the majority of Christian Americans have decided to keep their religion where it belongs: in the church.

Don't get me wrong: I'm a big fan of people who live out their principles. If someone draws a moral line in their own life, it is refreshing to see them own it and live by their convictions. But when it comes to certain issues, the CCRW has exposed itself as a house of cards, built on lies.

Take the pro-family issue. I would assume this meant they're not very big on divorce. And yet statistically, evangelical Christians are the likeliest demographic to divorce - higher than Catholics, higher than atheists, higher than agnostics.

As to the gay thing, last year a major evangelical was outed as a closet homosexual after a gay escort who had done crystal meth with him exposed him. These things really don't help your cause, guys.

I could go on with examples, but instead of trashing the CCRW, I have a radial suggestion, one which would be not only easier to live by, but more consistent with the Scriptures:

Go liberal.

There are plenty of causes that are championed by the bleeding heart liberals which read like Jesus of Nazareth's day planner: feeding the hungry, healing the sick, caring for the despised and afflicted, and befriending the outcasts in society. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and tell me - where were Jesus' priorities?
  • Jesus tended to the sick. A big part of his ministry wasn't even the miraculous feats like making the blind see and the lame walk, but that he took time out of his day whenever he could to care about the health of those around him. And in being charitable with his healing, and making sure even blind beggars got some of his valuable time, he got people interested in who he was as a man. He got people interested in the message. I submit to you that if Christians really wanted to shore up their numbers, if they really wanted to fill those pews, they would collectively demand affordable health care for all. In a Christian America, no one would be turned away from a chance to be healed.
  • Jesus fed the hungry. Sure he had showy miracles, but in the example of the feeding of the five thousand, he preached to them AFTER he fed them. This is smart - an audience with full bellies is less inclined to walk out on you. But more to the point, he understood that people have needs - like eating. And unless he was prepared to address that need, he could not reasonably expect them to care about his message. In America we have people who don't get enough to eat. We have enough food to feed the world, and yet the ones who need it the most get the least. We throw away more food every day in America that some nations eat. I believe that if the Christians in America really wanted to live up to Jesus' example, they'd make sure everyone had enough food. Then maybe some people who have been ambivalent about spirituality would show a little interest in Christianity.
  • Jesus refused to judge people, and associated with people of questionable reputations. In the story, people bring a woman to Jesus who apparently was caught in the act of adultery. Suspecting that Jesus was a soft touch and not in step with a vengeful God, they challenged him to judge her based on the law, which at the time called for her death by stoning. Jesus gave his permission to have her stoned, on the condition that the one in the crowd who was without sin themselves should throw the first stone. As expected, the crowd walked away, realizing that they were sinners as well, and therefore not in any position to judge. Jesus hung out with tax collectors (not a popular job, even in those days, and likely to pretty much crush your social standing). And as his popularity grew and doors were opened for him to associate with higher classes of people, he consistently chose to minister to the meek and oppressed. In America today, Christianity is more of a judgement factory, in elections exhorting people to decide to vote for a candidate they deem honorable. And how is this title of "honorable" attained? Look at Barack Obama, who associated with sinners like Bill Ayers. As such he wasn't honorable enough for the CCRW. I suspect that Jesus would have disagreed.

As liberals, Christians could not only focus more on ministering to the poor, the sick and hungry, but they could rally to the liberals' various environmental causes as well. God made the earth, right? And according to Genesis, he gave mankind dominion over the planet. So essentially we're responsible for it. I can't imagine how, with that in mind, any Christian wouldn't supposed legislation that offered to clean up the land, the water or the air. I can't imagine, for the life of me, why any decent Christian would stand by while their government offered anything less than excellent stewardship of the planet.

So there's my plan. Christians can still be involved with political affairs, and they can still act out their faith through supporting legislation that is consistent with the words and deeds of Jesus. But with a Democrat in the White House, they're going to have to adopt new pet causes to stay relevant. If I were a member of the evangelical Christian community, I'd keep my mouth shut about gays ruining marriage, at least until me and my fellow evangelicals managed to get a handle on our own divorce rates. If I were a member of the evangelical Christian community, I'd spend less time chanting "drill baby drill" and more time ensuring quality health care for all Americans.

You don't have to be able to lay hands on the sick and heal them to perform miracles. Abolish our current broken health care system, insurance companies be damned. Heal the sick and forget the paperwork. Get some of those millions of obese Americans to donate food they clearly don't need to those that do, even in other countries. That would be miraculous enough.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dear Red States:

Author unknown:

Dear Red States:

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California , Hawaii , Oregon , Washington , Minnesota , Wisconsin , Michigan , Illinois and all of the Northeast. It may even include Florida and Ohio , they are seriously considering it. We've given them until Nov. 4th to decide. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country. Since we're dropping the middle states we're calling it United America, or simply the U.A.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas , Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. You can take Ted Nugent. We're keeping Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. You get WorldCom. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get Ole' Miss. We get Harvard and 85 percent of America 's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama . We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. Please be aware that the U.A. will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq , and hope that the WMDs turn up, really we do, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire. We'd rather spend it on taking care of sick people, and educating our children.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines, 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT. With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite , thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy Redies believe you are people with higher morals then we Bluies..

Finally, we're taking the good pot, too.

Peace out,
Blue States

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fair Warning to President Obama

I've been in such a good mood lately, and with good reason. First off, my Phillies are leading three games to one in the World Series, and tonight's game gives them the home field advantage. Anyone who has ever attended a major sporting event in Philadelphia can attest to the zeal of the Philly fans. And that's putting it mildly - Flyers games include an unwritten rules allowing fans to spill beer on anyone wearing the other team's jersey. Eagles fans once booed Santa Claus off the field. And pity the poor sap in the stands tonight cheering for Tampa Bay. I could be mistaken but I believe there is an obscure rule on the books in Philadelphia that allows the people are him to kill him, cook him and eat him. I may be wrong.

Go Phils.

So the election draweth nigh, and every poll out there predicts a McCain defeat. Don't take it too personally, Senator. It's not about you, or your POW status, or even your policies. The simple fact that there is an "R" after your name pretty much dooms you. Americans are a fickle lot, and eight years of one party running the railroad is enough. Let's leave out of it the fact that George W. Bush (R) has set the controls for the heart of the sun. Even with the good that Bill Clinton had achieved after eight years, the American voting public demanded a game of musical chairs. Despite Al Gore's being overwhelmingly better suited for the job, Bush the Son skated into the job largely based on the American voting public's desire for something new and different. No matter how cataclysmically bad that choice was, at least it wasn't boring.

We liberals have had eight years to get good and mad about things. There isn't much going on in government that isn't going to get adjusted, if not reversed outright. Domestic policies, foreign policies, fiscal policies, economic, trade, you name it - there will be a new sheriff in town come January, and we're all champing at the bit to see how he's going to fix things.

Obama will have the benefit of a House and Senate that are controlled by the same party - his. And barring the occasional filibuster, we can reasonably expect the Federal government to function according to Democrat Party standards.

Even still, I already feel sorry for Obama. It's not a reflection of how I view his competence. It's not my pervasive pessimism either. It's simply this: Between eight years of Republicans running the Executive Branch and six years of them running the Legislative branch, we've gotten ourselves into a mess. You know how when you dig the Christmas lights out for decorating and untangling them takes longer than hanging them? I suspect Obama will feel like he's untangling the mother lode of all tangles come January, and I do not envy him.

Even so, he should know that about ten seconds after this throng of change-hungry liberals carry him across the goal and into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that same crowd, in all its fickle glory will begin to pick him apart. Obama will be roundly criticized by both sides. It''s not him - we just do it to our Presidents. They go from savior to goat pretty quickly. When Republicans criticize him for being a liberal, we'll circle the wagons, but we're defending the ideals, not the man. Bill Clinton took a lot of heat from both sides too. It's nothing personal.

So President Obama, if you're reading this, allow me to offer a few suggestions for your first 100 days in office. If you can stick to this list, you'll go a long way towards staving off criticism:
  • Give us a deadline for ending the war in Iraq. We want to know the details, and we want you to keep your word. This war, and its inability to limit itself, had a lot to do with getting you elected. We vote for you in hopes of ending it, so let's make it a priority.
  • Draft a bill, or ask Congress to draft it, introducing a Constitutional Amendment that the Federal Budget must be balanced.
  • Get the ball rolling on national health care. Either draft legislation, or demand it from Congress, to get the damn process started already.
  • Figure out a way to address the economic crisis that won't force the government to raise taxes.

Let's start with that. And know, sir, that even though I support you and rally others to do the same, I will be one of your harshest critics if you drop the ball. We've had eight years of idiotic leadership, and we're expecting quite a lot from you. I do not envy you, but I cannot bring myself to pity you either.

Godspeed to you, sir.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain Paints himself Into A Corner

With less than a month to go before Election Day, the polls are trending if not heavily, then consistently towards an Obama/Biden victory. Even Fox News, the last great bastion of right-leaning politics punditry, has succumbed to what looks like the inevitable: Obama will win and McCain will lose.

Not to be one to let the grass grow under my feet, I'd like to get the post-mortem started a little early. What went wrong for McCain? There's many factors that spelled defeat leading up to the election. Let's look back on some of the telling signs leading up to now, shall we?
  • Certainly McCain was never Mr. Popularity among those on the right wing. Seen as too much of a moderate by fellow Republicans, he dared to cross the aisle to co-author legislation in a time where the Republicans enjoyed such a majority in both houses of Congress that compromise seemed an unnecessary evil.
  • McCain was tainted by scandal, forever linked to the Keating Five. For those too young to understand... ah hell, just Google it. I'm long-winded enough as it is.
  • McCain never quite clicked with the extreme religious right. To Bush's credit, he knew to play Mr. Born Again when the situation called for it.
  • McCain relied too heavily on his status as a P.O.W. bad ass giving him the edge over us sissy liberals. It plays well in most cases, but this is a nation bone weary from an endless war.

The list goes on, but the one that caught my attention most recently was at a campaign event where he spoke with a woman who said she feared Barack Obama because he's an "Arab". The implication was clear - Obama wins, wraps his head in a turban , declares himself the Twelve Imam, and imposes Muslim laws. Any Christian holdouts refusing to convert to Islam get beheaded and the Inaugural Dinner is attended by the President of Iran.

McCain, to his credit, corrected the woman, saying Obama is not an Arab, and that he is a fine and honorable man. The crowd immediately booed. Booed! Watching McCain try to regain control of the crowd was just plain sad. Republicans are now booing their own candidate for refusing to propagate lies.

We're supposed to be electing the candidate based on the issues, or so I thought. But as McCain is falling behind in the polls, we've seen the names William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright trotted out once more, dusted off from their months of irrelevance. Republicans insist that these "associations" matter, because they reveal much about the man himself. I say, be very careful when attempting to besmirch Obama based on his associations. In the effort to get McCain elected, and in the past going back to the early 1980's, McCain has had a rogues' gallery on his speed dial, including Charles Keating and a few evangelists that would have us believe that Hurricane Katrina was God's righteous wrath borne against New Orleans for planning a gay pride parade. Scary stuff, that. To have a man in charge who keeps as spiritual counsel men with such Charlton Heston-esque notions of the Almighty makes you wonder how long it would take before we transitioned into a full-blown theocracy.

William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright - let's just admit it - are red herrings. Nothing in Obama's dealings with either of these men tells us anything about what kind of a job he would do as President. Their names are supposed to make you fearful and suspicious. And in your fear of Obama, you're supposed to vote for the safe candidate. But here's a thought - a safe candidate wouldn't employ fear as a tactic to make himself more attractive than the other guy. The safe candidate wouldn't want America to be afraid of anything, would they? It just seems to me that "safety" and "fear" would be mutually exclusive concepts - is it me?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why are the Republicans losing so badly?

Because they WANT to.

The mess the Republicans have made being in charge over the last eight years has finally come to fruition. Wall Street is melting down, Banks are collapsing, and all because of the Republican de-regulation. Instead of a free market, instead of capitalism, we have seen rampant greed, golden parachutes for CEO's of failed institutions, jobs sent overseas, inflation on the rise, gas prices have skyrocketed while Bush's oil buddies got obscenely wealthy, and now we have growing unemployment, foreclosures like we've not seen in decades, and we're on the brink of war with Iran and Russia.

You've got to give the Republicans credit for having enough sense to realize the ship is sinking. They know that whoever is in charge when the roof actually does collapse will shoulder the majority of the blame. Republicans, having created this house of cards, can slink away after the election and then when it all comes crashing down say, "see what happens? Democrats in charge and it all goes to hell."

They'll neglect to mention that they're the ones with their market deregulation that got us here. They'll have us forget that when the Republicans ran the White House and Congress, that gas doubled and tripled in price. They'll have us forget they committed hundreds of billions of dollars to an unnecessary war. They'll have us forget how they bankrupted the Treasury and destroyed a budget surplus only to plunge us, and now Wall Street, into the biggest financial meltdown in our lifetimes. They'll shrug off the blame to Clinton, even though he had us going in the opposite direction. They'll pass the buck to Obama and Biden in 2009, abandoning the problem to the next generation.

That's okay though, Republicans. Don't worry about it. We're used to this from you. You did it with Reagan and Bush the Father, and now you've done it with Bush the Son - you screw the country royally, get your fatcat friends even richer, and leave this country like hooker in a ditch.

Come next year, you'll be playing golf in Dubai and laughing over how you fooled the American people into letting you get away with it, and how you got Obama to take the rap. But just like Clinton put our Humpty Dumpty economy back together again after twelve years of GOP omelets, so will Obama and Biden repair the damage this time.

That's why you nominated the least popular Republican you could find, and had her pick a hockey mom from Podunk Alaska as his running mate. You were never serious about winning in the first place. You WANT to lose this election, and bail out just in time. You know you've screwed us, and you know you haven't got the first clue how to fix it. So when Obama wins handily next month, if it fails you can blame him, and if he miraculously rescues us from the brink of the abyss, you can say he benefited from policies Bush the Son set in motion.

You've got all your bases covered.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Two Cents on Abortion

Is it me, or is the abortion thing just another distraction? I mean, not to take anything away from the validity of either side... Do we really think whichever President gets elected is going to have any kind of drastic impact on abortion?

First off, of the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), it will be the judicial folks that make the choices that impact abortion. Even if a President or even a Congress make laws restricting abortion, you have to know those decisions will be challenged eventually, and ultimately it will be the Supreme Court that gets the last word.

Now I know what you're going to say - who ever is the next president, for the next four or eight years, will probably be in charge of nominating replacement judges. We're looking at the strong possibility of 2-3 of the nine retiring in the near future. And when that happens, pundits will wag their tongues as to the significance of everything that happens.

But let's cut to the chase, shall we? Say a justice retires. The President nominates a replacement. Predictably, this nominee is in close lockstep with the President on issues like abortion. Then the nominee goes before Congress and gets every decision they've ever made re-examined and a few decisions they might hypothetically make in the future. Assuming the Congress approves this person (which is by no means guaranteed) they may or may not tip the scales in the Supreme Court towards the left or right.

So fast forward a few years. We replace two justices and now the Court is leaning heavily towards one side (pick one). Laws get passed having to do with abortion, and those laws get challenged, eventually making their way to the Supreme Court. Regardless of what is decided in the future, decisions from previous sessions stand, like... Roe V. Wade.

Now, I know this is a personal issue for many. Some have more first hand contact with life and death than others, like healthcare providers. To the rest of us, this is an interesting academic debate, and we have the luxury of distance. But I would respectfully submit that even the pro-choiciest of the pro-choice army does not enjoy the idea of abortion. Certainly, to those who have the procedure done, it is a traumatic and painful process. The doctors who perform abortions, I would guess, take no joy from terminating a pregnancy. Every fetus aborted weighs on their conscience. Why do they do it then? I can't be sure. I suspect that in the context in which it is presented, it seems at the very least, a reasonable alternative. Those of us who have never dealt with an unwanted pregnancy ourselves can only suppose the circumstances, but one thing I can safely assume - that this is not a world that exists in black and white, and we all find ourselves in some shade of gray. All of us make decisions we question later. All of us wonder about what could have been.

My point is, the decision as to whether a woman should have an abortion is one best left to healthcare professionals, and the mother. As a man, I have to remind myself that despite any opinions I have, if a woman was pregnant by me, regardless of how involved I am, this will affect her more profoundly than it will me. So having my say excluded from the final decision is a bitter pill, but one I have no choice but to swallow. And if I, as the father, only get a consulting vote, how much less should 535 men and women who don't even know us? This is a medical issue first, a moral one to be sure, but even so, it is not the government's place to mandate morality. In a country where our tax dollar goes to subsidize auto industries that pollute our air, in a country where handgun violence rivals even the most war-torn regions of the world, in a country with a multi-billion-dollar tobacco industry, in a country that devoted billions of dollars every year to building tanks and missiles, it seems a little disingenuous to suddenly cherish life when it comes to unborn babies.

I'm not saying life isn't sacred. I'm not saying our elected officials aren't entitled to their opinions. I'm just saying that decisions this personal, decisions no doubt tempered by personal mitigating circumstance, should not be left to anyone except the parties directly involved. If abortions ceased tomorrow and forever, I would celebrate along with the neoconniest of the neocons. But only if the choice to carry the pregnancies to term were made by the mothers and not the government. I just cannot accept that our government has the moral authority to dictate terms to the citizenry on this highly charged and personal issue. I close by saying that this issue has been trotted out to get the partied worked up, and nothing else. Next, we'll talk about some other irrelevant topic, like flag burning or gay marriage.

My Theory on Sarah Palin

I should preface this by saying I'm not as well-versed on her as I should be. I only know what the mainstream media tells me. She has been a governor for two years, which makes her the only one of the four with any executive experience, albeit brief. Before that, she was mayor of a small town in Alaska. All told, her experience in politics goes back to 1992. I think you'd agree that Republicans are in no position at this point to criticize Obama's "lack of experience".

If Republicans win the White House in November, Palin will almost certainly ascend to the presidency. McCain is not long for this earth, and I think it is telling that he chose a woman to be his running mate. My initial reaction was that McCain is trying to gather up the disaffected Hillary supporters to his cause. But in politics, it helps to be able to look beyond the obvious. Certainly, some will flock to vote for any woman in high office, regardless of qualifications, principles or policies. As a liberal, I had to laugh when conservatives crowed about the Palin decision as demonstrating the chauvinism of the Democratic Party. Parenthetically speaking, I have to wonder how many anti-Hillary Republicans will jump ship to Obama rather than vote for a woman.

I can see the strategic value in Republicans nominating in a woman, especially in light of Hillary not getting the Democratic nomination. I wonder though if it won't backfire. Republicans have made much of Obama's lack of experience, and there were many who scoffed at the idea of Hillary being President on general principle (i.e., her gender). Now McCain has forced them to either eat crow in the name of party loyalty or jump ship.

November will see a lot of people on both sides of the fence crossing over - women who supported Hillary for no other reason than her gender will throw their lot in with McCain. Misogynists in the Republican party who are loathe to see a woman in the Oval Office may well send a message on election day by either not voting at all or voting for the all-male ticket. But what's good about this election is that is going to be very telling about the motivations of voters. We'll see if the issues trump all, party loyalties call the shots, or we just wind up voting within our comfort levels and nothing else.

I do think Obama is going to win, though. Of course I do - I'm a Democrat. But I see the Palin question throwing the GOP into an ideological tailspin. Back in 1984, Walter Mondale took Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, and it seemed to symbolize the left's willingness to include women in all its reindeer games at all levels. It cast the GOP as the Archie Bunkers of modern politics, and it also seemed like blowback for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment some years earlier. But I always secretly wondered if the Ferraro choice was made when Mondale realized that it wouldn't matter who he picked - Reagan fever was running high in America in 1984, especially in the wake of the Los Angeles Olympics. Reagan seemed to embody not just the GOP, but American pride in general. In light of what had to be an obviously hopeless cause, I suspect Mondale chose to attach himself to a running mate that would at least serve notice that the Democrats were going to be the first to crack the glass ceiling.

I have to wonder, in light of the general attitudes towards Bush in this country, if McCain isn't borrowing a page from the Mondale playbook. He knows he's going to lose, not because of anything about him per se, but because the country is going shift left after eight years of Republicans in the White House. And if he's going to go down in flames, he can at least serve notice that Republicans are every bit as progressive on gender issues as Democrats, even if it took them 30 years to catch up. So in the short term, Republicans lose the White House, but this decision to include a woman on the ticket begins to repair the reputation of the GOP as misogynists, a message which will blossom in time for the GOP to woo the feminists back into their camp for 2012.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Party Unity My Ass, or my plea to Hillary's supporters

So Hillary Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention last night and stated her support for Barack Obama. She stated her belief that in order to prevail in the general election in November, we must unite as a party. It's a pretty simple message, and it's hard to deny her logic.

Ever since Hillary dropped out and Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, there have been rumblings. Those committed to Hillary's campaign found themselves in a tight spot. Most of the Democratic primary process was focused on choosing between the two. All others dropped away, leaving Democrats with those two.

For my own part, I was not in either one's camp in the beginning. I was not an Obama guy or a Hillary guy when this started. I liked Biden (and I'm delighted he's the VP candidate) in the beginning. But then he dropped out early, and I went for Richardson. I picked Richardson mostly for his experience with foreign relations. But then Richardson figured out he wasn't going to get the nomination, and he dropped out.

My point here is that with each candidate, there were supporters. Those supporters, for one reason or another, felt their candidate was the best pick. And when those candidates bowed out, they left their supporters looking for the second best pick. Many of us, whose first (and second, and third) choice didn't win have had to trade out loyalties several times. It's clear to me, as someone who has bounced from one candidate to another in the primary process, that the bottom line is to get a Democrat, ANY Democrat in the White House.

We Democrats have seen the damage inflicted on this country by George W. Bush. And if there was a candidate on the Republican side who was willing to admit that Bush had been bad for our country, if there was one single Republican candidate who had the courage to distance himself and commit to reversing Bush's course, I might have considered voting for him (or her). I'm not saying I would have, but it would have impressed the hell out of me to see someone willing to break ranks.

What Hillary's supporters need to keep in mind is this: easily 95% of the positions Hillary takes on the issue are mirrored by Obama. John McCain's voting records mirrors George W. Bush's 90% of the time. If a person supported Hillary Clinton because of her policies, it's not to late to see those policies win. And Hillary isn't going anywhere. She's still a Senator from New York, and she'll continue pushing her ideals through, whether Barack Obama wins in November or not. They also need to understand that without support from Hillary's people, Obama will lose - it's that simple. And if that happens, it means another four years of deficit spending, another four years of pointless war in Iraq, it means going to war with Iran in all likelihood, it means four more years of how things have been. I, for one, shudder.

We need to get a Democrat in the White House, for the good of the nation and the good of the world. We need to have someone who embraces the principles of the Democratic Party in a position to reverse the course that George W. Bush has set our nation on. We need to rebuild our infrastructure as well as our standing on the world's stage and we need a Democrat in the Oval Office to make that a reality.

If someone supported Hillary because she is a woman, and now won't support Barack Obama, then that person is, by definition, a sexist. There, I said it. And yes, women came be sexists just like men. When you decide to choose someone for a job based solely on their gender, that is sexist.

Hillary did not deserve to be in the running because she is a woman, or because of her last name. She deserved to be in the running because she was qualified and she would have made a good Democratic President. And like Obama or not, he is the nominee. And now the job is up to us Democrats to vote him into office. And we can still support Hillary Clinton. We can be proud that she got as far as she did. We can hope that if elected Obama may appoint her to a cabinet position. If all else fails, she is still the Senator from the great state of New York, and she will work with President Obama and no doubt advise him on many issues.

Maybe Hillary will run in 2012 if Obama loses. Maybe she'll succeed him in 2016. Maybe she will become the Senate Majority leader. No one is counting her out yet. But we are now in the phase of the political process where we vote for the President, and Hillary isn't an option. Please know that Hillary would not want John McCain in the White House, and if you call yourself a Democrat, I can't imagine why you wouldn't do everything in your power to keep him out as well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

English is the New White

The "english as our official language" crowd has been rattling their sabres lately. Let me boil this down:

The idea here seems to be that if you speak english, you are "better" than those who don't. You should not be made to wait in line behind someone who only speaks spanish. The inference here is that english is the "better" language, or that people who speak english are "better" people, more deserving for prompt service. Pressing "1" for english is offensive, they tell us. Imagine if they had to press "1" for spanish and "2" for english? Oh, the outrage! Who do those spanish-speakers think they are, acting so uppity?

They will use, as a rationale, the fact that more people in this country speak english. And since we are a democracy, and majority rules, those people who speak spanish are therefore "second-class", and should have no special treatment. Don't speak english? Too bad. Either they learn english like us "first class" people, or they shouldn't be allowed to vote, drive, get jobs, eat in restaurants, open bank accounts, rent property, own a home, send their kids to school, get medical care, etc.

The idea is offensive, they will say, to see any kind of print in spanish. Instructions on a voting ballot, for instance. Never mind that there's instructions in english. Never mind that the english instructions come first, and the spanish ones second. Never mind that no one has suggested removing the english language instructions, only that they make room for instructions in spanish as well. It's still offensive, we're told.

They seem to see spanish-speaking people as some kind of a threat, like they're a cult that's going to brainwash our kids when we're not looking. We get fed statistics of crime, shutting down emergency rooms, rape and murder, and we good white people are supposed to circle the wagons and protect ourselves from the invasion of these unwashed savages. We're told that spanish-speaking people are up to no good, and should not be trusted.

And of course, they raise the spectre of illegal immigration. They tell us that pandering to the spanish-speaking people (in other words, treating them like human beings) is going to encourage illegal immigration. Never mind that most if not all of these folks shop at Wal-Mart, one of the biggest offenders, hiring more illegal aliens than anyone else. They don't mind the spanish-speakers mowing our lawns and washing our cars like the good little peasants they are, but the minute they try to speak to us in spanish, look out. Now they've gone too far. Spanish speaking people want a living wage? Why, who do they think they are?

They tell us that we need to declare english as our national language, and thereby justify further mistreatment of those non-english speaking riffraff. They want other laws changed as well, to protect their "way of life", even though their way of life is not under attack by anybody. (Unless, by "way of life" you mean systematic and legal discrimination.) They want us to help them maintain their time-honored status of superiority by virtue of language. They want us to think of spanish speaking people as inferior. They create a crisis wher none exists, to scare us into passing laws to maintain their status quo.

But they're not racists - heavens no! This isn't a race issue, they assure us. It's a heritage issue. Just like slavery was a heritage issue. Just like "colored-only" swimming pools, lunch counters and water fountains were about "preserving our heritage". Of course they're not racists. Just because they automatically assume anyone who speaks spanish is an illegal alien doesn't make them racists, does it?

Surely not.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Right now Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and other major U.S. cities have two things in common: booming economies and high numbers of illegal immigrants. The problem is, many people living in these cities and doing business in these cites have a problem with the "sanctuary city" policies. They continue to do their part to contribute to the economies, despite their objections to their cities' policies.

In the meantime, the federal and local governments can butt heads and tie up the courts trying to prove each other's side wrong. It's all election year posturing and campaign rhetoric, and nothing actually gets accomplished. They use the issue to get people angry enough to vote against one side, and after the election peoples' tempers cool and the issue is largely forgotten until the next election.

I've confessed in a previous post to being a Craig's List addict, and in the past few days the topic of "sanctuary cities" has become THE hot topic. In my browsing the conservative talk radio rants, it seems the hosts on these programs all but froth at the mouth over it. They attack the mayors, the city councils, even the police for not hunting down every last illegal immigrant and deporting them. As I listen to the radio hosts and read the Craig's List posts, I wonder - do these people actually LIVE in a "sanctuary city"? It seems most of them do. Which begs the question: why do they stay? I mean if they're really that fed up, and if there are other cities that don't have these policies, what's stopping these people from going there?

You might think it heartless of me to suggest they pack up and go, but I would remind you, Gentle Reader, of the Conservatives' own slogan: "America - love it or leave it". We've been told on countless occasions that if we latte-swilling liberals hate our country so much, then we should just leave. Go to France, we're told, go to Canada, go somewhere else if you can't appreciate your country. I'm not suggesting anyone expatriate. I am suggesting that while living within the borders of America, a person has the choice of thousands of towns and cities, all with a variety of policies towards immigrants. You can find a town or city whose policies more clearly match your own convictions, and head there.

So with all that in mind, I say it's time for an experiment. Moreover, it's time for people to put some action behind their words and live out their convictions. But most of all, it's time to settle the question: are we, as a society, suffering or benefiting from the presence of illegal immigrants, and from policies that systematically tolerate their presence? It has been show time and time again that one of the most effective ways of getting policies changed is to cut off all financial support from the offending parties until they amend their practices. In other words, a boycott.

So here's how this works - everyone who is opposed to sanctuary cities leaves those cities. They move out, they relocate their families, their businesses, their lives to places with no sanctuary city policies. Then they stay gone for five years. Those of you that have no problem with living in a so-called sanctuary city can stay put.Those that leave, don't do business with anyone who works or lives in a sanctuary city, or anyone who does. Boycott all products and services based in sanctuary cities. Don't send your kids to college in any sanctuary cities. They live their lives, they get their goods and services elsewhere, they do their best to isolate these cities and let them fend for themselves economically, and in all other ways.

After five years, we'll compare the economic state of the sanctuary city residents' economic situation to those living elsewhere. We'll compare average incomes, crime rates, tax rates, education, health, pollution, suicide rates, infant mortality rates, unemployment rates, welfare statistics, and general quality of life. We'll do a side-by-side comparison between sanctuary cities and non-sanctuary cities, in every way that quality of life can be measured. If the quality of life measures out to be overall better in the sanctuary cities, then we will resolve no laws be made to interfere with those policies, as they would clearly be shown to be in the city's best interests. If the quality of life in sanctuary cities is worse, that can use that as a basis for outlawing sanctuary city policies and ridding it of all illegals by any means necessary.

The bottom line is this: if you want to do away with sanctuary city policies, you must first establish that it's in the public's best interest. You must prove beyond a doubt that people's lives would be better without the existence of sanctuary city policies. Because as long as there are people who believe that we as a society benefit from these policies, they will never go away. If you want to PROVE beyond any shadow of doubt that sanctuary cities are a bad idea, in my opinion this is the best way to do it.

You'll notice that I'm not taking a side here. I'm only interested in what's best. And until we can conclusively prove one side right and other side wrong, all we have is a difference of opinion - different conclusions drawn from the same set of facts. Whether you support sanctuary city policies or not, you want to see your point of view validated, proven true, and used as the basis for legislation. I respectfully submit that there is no other way I can think of to prove the point.

Of course, I am a confessed liberal, and I think that the anti-illegal mentality largely fomented by our friends on the right wing speak to their need to vilify a group and focus their hatred into xenophobia. I think they hate Mexicans, and they want it to be not only legal to stick it to all Spanish-speaking people, but they want it deemed patriotic. Hence, all the chest-thumping over these sanctuary cities.

For my part, I live in a sanctuary city and it doesn't bother me one bit. I know most of the people in this city are from somewhere else. Heck, I'm from somewhere else - it just happens that my "somewhere else" is here in the United States. But I came here to this city for the economy and a chance at a better life, at least financially, and I got my wish. So I can't bring myself to begrudge those people who have done the same, even if their "somewhere else" wasn't in this country.

And in my dealings with government, and after witnessing the colossally inept bureaucracy with which they address their affairs, I have to wonder: how many of these so-called "illegal immigrants" are only illegal because our government accepts mediocre work from its own employees? If the policies handed down from Congress addressed the issue of immigration with the same enthusiasm the immigrants demonstrate in their high-risk border crossings, how many "illegals" would we have? If the people responsible for processing the paperwork from these would-be citizens worked as hard as the Mexicans busing tables and washing cars in this city, I have to wonder: would we have fewer illegals?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why We Will Always Have Illegal Immigrants

RENO, Nev. — Two executives and the corporate owner of 11 northern Nevada McDonald's restaurants pleaded guilty to felony immigration charges and agreed to pay $1 million in fines.

And so it goes... red-staters crowed this morning over this report on Fox News - where else? This is, no doubt, evidence that we're taking meaningful steps to address the problem of illegal immigration in our country.

I submit to you that it's not.

I say, if we REALLY wanted to do something about illegal immigration, we wouldn't waste our time congratulating ourselves that 30 people got deported here. Do you honeslty think McDonald's cares about a million dollar fine? It's MCDONALD'S, dumbass. They'll make that million back before midnight tonight. It's chump change to them. We see that number and we ooh and ahh as if the mighty hand of justice actually DID something meaningful. Wrong. It's a token gesture, and that money means nothing to McDonald's. Hell, fine them TWO million. See if they care. Fine them TEN million. It won't matter. When you're dealing with a company the size of McDonald's, a million dollars is NOTHING.

If we really wanted to end illegal immigration, we'd be going after the EMPLOYERS, the ones who make illegal immigration happen - we'd be boycotting McDonald's, we'd be boycotting Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, and any business busted for having illegals on the payroll.

But we won't. I know we won't. How do I know? Because - only white trash people bitch about illegals, and no way a white trash person would last a week without McDonald's and Wal-Mart. They don't have the stomach for it. They bitch about the illegals between your mouthfuls of Big Macs and french fries, while making their weekly trips to Wal-Mart. They complain, but they aren't willing to back up their ideas with meaningful action. They won't boycott. They won't picket. They won't circulate petitions or organize letter-writing campaigns. They'll sit on their asses and bitch on Craig's List, as if their opinion meant ANYTHING, all the while patronize the very buinesses that hire most of the illegal immigrant labor in this country, and all the while complaining that their government isn't doing enough about the problem.

And that's why we will always have illegal immigrants in this country. Because an opinion without meaningful action to back it up is just that - an opinion. And as long as we continue to support those businesses, nobody cares what our opinion is. Nobody ever changed the world with just an opinion.

Personally, I have no plans to boycott either. I'm not the least bit interested in ending illegal immigration. I think it serves two valid and important needs. One, it gives people the opportunity to come to this country and help it grow. In other words, to live out the American Dream. Secondly (and here's where the selfish bastard in me comes out), I love a bargain - what can I say? I'm not paid to blog, so I'll take my bargains wherever I can get them. And if companies like McDonald's can afford to give me my double cheeseburgers for a buck because they're paying their employees slave wages, that's between them and their workers. Someday, the glorious revolution will comes, comrades, and the rich fat robber barons that oppress the proletariat will be crushed under the heels of the working man. Fairness and equality will be the order of the day, and on that day I imagine I'll have to pay more for my greaseball burgers. And I will, gladly. Because nothing satisifies more than two all-beef patties, unless it's seeing these corporate fat cats get what's coming to them.

Bon appetit.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

When Did Hate Become Patriotic?

I have a confession to make: I'm a Craig's List junkie.

I spend at least an hour a day reading the politics board on the Los Angeles Craig's List site, and occasionally posting my two cents. Before that, it was the Rants and Raves section. I confess I ran out of use for Rants and Raves quickly, as it's nothing more than bunch of mindless hate from the “Who’s Who in Racist Idiots” most elite. All rants, no raves. No joyous ebullience at the small fortunes of life. No crowing over good fortune, accomplishment, or blessings. All that negativity began to cloud my own view, and so I went to the politics board, hoping to find less hate and more intellectual discourse.

I was not wowed.

What passes for political debate on Craig's List would not be tolerated in any government studies class in any school. No civics teacher would stand for the racist droolings on that site. True, the occasional voice in the wilderness cries forth suggesting tolerance and the need for change, but its rarity only goes to draw attention to itself as being just that - a rarity.

And yet, these are the people in my neighborhood, in my neighborhood, in my neighorho-od. These are the Angelinos I live with. I share the freeways with them. I work alongside of them. I shop in the same grocery stores, I breathe the same air, I drink the same water. For all I know, I live next to them. And yet I have to remind myself that it is not my place to consider myself above them. Still, I cannot bring myself to think of myself as one of them either. It would be safe to say I have no tolerance for their intolerance.

I'll given you a moment to digest the irony.

Ready? Okay, let's move on.

I already know the answer to my initial question: it became patriotic to hate on September 11, 2001. I remember watching the news in the days that followed. I was living on the east coast then, and there was a story about local New Yorkers' reaction to the idea that Middle Eastern terrorists had carried out the attacks. Okay let me just state the obvious: the terrorists, or whoever was flying those planes, died that day. Hating them will not undo what they did, and hating people with the same ancestry is just plain stupid. But I digress. There was a shot of a local New Yorker in this report, leaning out of his window as he drove past, yelling at the camera "round 'em ALL up! Deport all those Middle East bastards!" Fist pumping in the air to give this sentiment additional gravity, he rumbled off into the sea of New Yorkers, presumably feeling right at home with his new-found xenophobia.

Okay - so the idea of not liking people from the Middle East wasn't exactly thought up on 9/11. I get that. I remember the Iran Hostage Crisis - 444 days' worth of bad news about angry Muslims who hated us and wanted us dead. The images have, suffice it to say, stuck.

We've seen countless images in TV and films of the crazy-eyed Middle Eastern dude, hell bent on destroying us godless infidels in a sea of holy fire, usually surrounded by like-minded loonies. They fire their machine guns in the air and ululate in a frenzy that falls somewhere between psychosis and religious fervor. The American viewing public has been systemically groomed to accept that at some point these yahoos were going to leap off the screens and into our lives. 9/11 seemed to contradict our worst fears, that lots and lots of Middle Eastern guys were pissed at us and were willing to die to bring harm to us.

But the paranoia borne of that day should have dissipated. The anger should have cooled. If there was one thing I thought we could count on, it was the forgetfulness of the American people. But in the weeks and months following 9/11, you couldn’t turn on the television for more than a minute without seeing images of the Twin Towers under attacks. The American public was eager for revenge, seething with an impotent rage because those 9/11 baddies were already dead, and we had yet to get our hands on anyone remotely responsible. I remember watching a concert of all-star rock stars and movie stars, with proceeds benefitting the victims of the attacks. Richard Gere came out and talked for a few moments about the need for peace and understanding. He was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. That crowd was more willing to take up torches and pitchforks and storm the village looking for Muslims than join hands and sing Kumbaya with this well-meaning Buddhist. He was promptly booed off the stage, and the Who were brought on to sing a well-received "Won't Get Fooled Again". You get the idea.

At that point I realized that this was to be one of those periods in American history where the common citizenry just lost its fucking mind for a while. In World War One, we actually passed a law making it legal to lock people up for speaking out against our participation in the war. In World War Two, we rounded up Americans of Japanese ancestry and threw them into camps. In the 50's and 60's, we turn high-pressure water hoses on black Americans uppity enough to try registering to vote. These things happen. I remember reading about these events and thanking the gods that I was born in a more modern and civil period of American history, where we had evolved beyond the need for mob mentality legislation and institutionalized prejudice.

Then somewhere along the way, someone started equating illegal immigration with national security. One of the shills on Fox News, no doubt. They had been complaining about all the damn Mexicans forever, and this new issue of National Security (which no one dared question) seemed the perfect way to create stronger legislation aimed at picking on immigrants. The theory goes something like this: if Mexicans can sneak across the border undetected and find their way into large cities like Los Angeles, what's to stop a terrorist cell like al Qaeda from doing the same? See how that works? Soon, we're imagining "sleeper cells" planting in our very communities. Every Middle Eastern cab driver has bombs strapped to their chest. Every woman in a headscarf is a jihadist, most likely bent on killing the Great Satan.

I’m going to state the obvious here, because I’ve spent too much time already trying to see things from the other side’s perspective: it is NOT patriotic to hate. It does not demonstrate your love for your country by bashing people from other countries. Picking on Mexicans does not make you a better American. Muslims in American, people of Mexican heritage in America, all immigrants, whether here legally or not, are entitled to be treated civilly. They are entitled to the protection of the law. They are not our enemies.

Someday, this war will end. Someday we will have to kiss and make up with the world. I remember my father having disdain for Japanese people decades after the Second World War ended. I knew then that it was stupid and pointless to harbor grudges against people for such a flimsy reason, for so long. I remember thinking then, as I think now, “Please don’t let us become that”. But, my fellow Americans, I see this generation heading down the same path, and I wish I knew how to stop it.