Archive for August 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Well the primaries are almost over and it would appear that at least in Republican circles the Tea Baggers made some headway.  In Arizona, John McCain won, but in doing so he shunned everything he believed in to pander to their immigrant bashing, Muslim hating, and government distain. In Alaska, Senator Murkowski who is no friend of progressivism, may be unseated by a candidate that is even further to the Right, and this in a state where one-third of all income comes from federal dollars. In Florida, the billionaire “outsider” won. So it is quite possible that the party of NO will become the party of hell no.

As the New York Times pointed out, much of this support “has been churned up by playing on some people’s fears of Hispanics and Muslims, by painting the president as a dangerous radical, by distorting the truth about the causes of the recession. Far too many Republican leaders have eagerly fed that destructive anger.”  So one has to step back and imagine what a Congress would look like if we actually put these fruitloops in the House and Senate.

Let’s start with smaller government.  Well, some think unemployment insurance is unAmerican.  Others think Social Security is unnecessary.  And let’s return schools to total local control so we can teach Adam and Eve again.  Science classes would have to be carefully screened so that anything conflicting with the Bible could be stricken from the curriculum.  We need a big fence down South and we will find the billions necessary by ????  We will round up all 20 million or so illegals and put them where?  What about their kids?  Just push them all across the border?  Certainly we need to change the 14th Amendment so that anybody’s true citizenship can be questioned.  Are you white and Christian?  And by the way, the Bill of Rights should be subject to popular vote.  No more of those activist judges.

The EPA does nothing but interfere with property rights so back to the good old days of doing what you want on your property.  Those pesky regulations just hinder business so let’s reduce the FDA inspections and SEC interference with the banking industry. By all means, let’s dismantle Obama care since once the insurance companies are free to compete, things will get better for all of us.   After all, they have our best interests at heart.  And lets not forget how the government interceded with education loans and took it away from banks and their hefty fees.  Let’s restore banks to their rightful role of making large profits on the backs of our kids.  And by all means, let’s cut taxes so the rich can get richer and we can pay off our deficit?

Not a pretty picture and would take a country that is down on one knee, to face down in the gutter.  Sadly the party of Lincoln has become the Party of neofacists.  I am not kidding.  With their pandering to these nutcakes, they are encouraging hate.  A man in New York got into a Taxi yesterday, asked if the cab driver was Muslim, and then stabbed him (NYT).  A good white boy defending his country.  Another fruitcake in Florida is going to have an event where they burn the Koran (NYT).  And of course in Arizona we have a law where if you look different, then you need to produce your citizenship papers.  This is not the America I know and it is becoming down right scary.  Following the lead of the Republican Party we are becoming a mob.  I, quite frankly, can not understand how a person today can say they are Republican when their party is fomenting this evil.  And if you don’t believe they are fomenting this evil, then you are in serious denial.

But the most fundamental evil is that it is all miss-direction.  While all these anarchists (that is what the Tea Party is) are foaming at the mouth, the Republican Party continues to serve its masters, big business., because everything these Tea Partiers want serves to reduce the impact of government on big corporations.  So if they are successful, they may rue what they wished for.  Where once they were citizens of a government they could vote out of office, they will now be victims of large corporations who serves at the pleasure of their stockholders.  Be careful what you wish for.  You are simply a tool of the real oppressors.

Outsider Candidates

Notice how many mega millionaires are running as political outsiders who will fix our system? In my mind, most of these “CEO” multimillionaires are like generals. Everything they hear and do is designed to reinforce what they already believe. These are not the people who would lead any real change in Washington. But it is true they probably can’t be bought, and in most of their cases, that is sad considering what they represent.

Denial

Ever listen to someone who is in serious denial?  “I would have done better in high school if my teachers were more entertaining.”  “I am just too busy to exercise.”  More seriously, “They will find a cure for my cancer,” a week before they passed away.  We are very good at denial.  In fact, I would say we are now leading the world in denial.  As our problems pile up, we find more and more ways not to face the fact that the solutions will not just happen.  They will take some sacrifice.

In the political world we see denial at its pinnacle.  My favorite is, “If we would just cut the waste out of government…”.  One person’s waste is another person’s lifeline.  Take unemployment insurance.  Many on the right think this is just an excuse not to get a job.  But for many, it is a lifeline where the reality is there are a minimum of 5 applications for every available job.  Said another way, that equates to only 20% of the unemployed having any opportunity to work, and most of these jobs are lower paying than what the unemployed came from.  We are in serious trouble and we continue our denial.

Denial takes many forms and the present incarnation is blame and fear.  Remember Shirley Sherrod and the made up story about how blacks were stealing white people’s rights.  Then it was the Mexican hoards coming over the boarder and the made up crime waves.  Now we have the invasion of the Muslim mosques.  It is all about transference.  Also note the color of the barbarians at the gate.  It is an underlying racist appeal to white people.  We are afraid, the future is cloudy, and it is so much easier to attack or blame someone else than to hold a mirror up to ourselves and see the real problem.

How else do you explain people who hate the public option but hold their Medicare dear?  How do you explain the demand for more tax cuts and at the same time decrying the deficit?  How do you explain the denial of global warming as the polar cap melts?  Look at the Tea Party who are white, fat, mostly old, on Social Security and Medicare and hate big government?  How do you explain people who want to bring the Republicans back into office when it was their policies that got us into the pickle we are in?  If they are offering nothing new, how could you expect any change?  How can you believe giving the rich more tax cuts helps the economy when the middle class has been in decline for 30 years?  It is all denial.

The biggest denial is what happened to our economy under George Bush.  Banks made mass amounts of money in the housing bubble (which was a lie) pushing loans that could be packaged into investment instruments (also worthless and a lie) and sold around the world.  People, used debt to expand their spending power based upon the false appraisal of their homes.  All those good times and spending, creating more good times, was all based upon a lie and denial.  Now we are looking for another lie, and the Republicans seem happy to sell us one.

Right now, as the economy is crashing (maybe not for the rich, but for the middle class and poor), the reality of government cutting back is starting to sink in.  All those “wasteful” programs like health care, police, fire, roads, teachers, schools, parks, lifelines to the elderly, public transit, and I could go on and on, are being cut.  All of a sudden the reality of what government does is starting to sink in.  Sure you can find waste.  But PLEASE, waste can be found anywhere and the private sector can be much worse than the public sector. Greed is the great instigator of waste.   Still got any of those great derivatives investments?

And with all this denial, we are not discussing our problems rationally.  We are paralyzed by fear.  The Republicans have ginned up some false issues so they can distract you long enough so that their real base, the rich, can be protected.  They have made us so afraid of the deficit that we are unable to do what is necessary to get the nation going again.  They are quite happy sabotaging the country for their own political well being.  Look at John McCain.  He once was a man I could admire.  Now he is a pandering to the right to keep his job and no longer has any credibility with anyone.  What happened to “Country First”?  He is just the tip of the iceberg in the Republican Party as they continue to try to de-legitimize the President.  You only had to watch Mitch McConnell not answer a direct question on the citizenship or faith of the President to understand how this is pervasive among main stream Republicans.  These people are enemies of our country and are sowing hate and lies to advance their political agenda.  It is shameful.

Bottom line here is that we need a real discussion about what we need to do to restart the economy.  We also need a real discussion about how to manage the deficit.  That probably means a larger deficit in the near term, and more taxes for all of us in the future.  But we just can’t face up to it.  We are still looking for the free ride.  So we wear a hardhat and go to the site of 9/11 and attack anyone who doesn’t look like us.  This is an America I am ashamed of.  Hopefully soon the rational will take back our country.

Somebody on the Right Finally Stood Up

Thank you Ron Paul. I may disagree with Ron Paul on many issues, but he stands for something and he doesn’t use hate or polls to decide his politics. I will always admire him. He can be my guest anytime and I will pour him my best wine.  See his call to Sunshine Patriots on his blog, Ron Paul.com

On Religion

With almost of quarter of the population believing President Obama to be a Muslim, I have to ask the question, who cares?  Thought I was going to bemoan the sad state of affairs our media is in and the control of Fox News didn’t you?  Well, that is bemoanable, but the real issue is why a person’s religious belief should be of concern.  And the answer to that question goes to the heart of how backward a nation we still are and how little we understand our own roots.

There is, I think, a spiritual yearning in all of us. As confirmed an atheist as I am, I feel a connection to this universe, my planet, my vineyard, just in the birth of a new day at dawn.  That, however, does not lead me to the illogical conclusion that there is a fairy godfather who looks out for me personally.  But for the majority of the world’s population, that is a comfortable belief that most embrace.  I have to laugh when I think about how we now distain the Greeks and Romans and their belief in multiple deities, when in reality that is what we have today.  Our monotheism is just reserved to our individual faiths, but if you look at the different faiths, just in the United States, they are talking about very different gods.

And let’s be real, religion can be a very powerful tool for good or evil even if it is a product of fiction, albeit a fiction many of us need.  What is good about religion is that it can give you a strength you didn’t think you had to get through tough situations.  It is comforting to believe that there is a plan and you have a place in it.  On the other hand, as we saw exemplified by Franklin Graham in his CNN rant, it can be used to despise, hate, be intolerant, exclude, and justify “unchristian like” acts.  Like all human endeavors, and sadly in many cases, religion just boils down to a power game of exclusion.   If there is only one right path, all others must be inferior.

It would seem, and this is getting back to my point about us being more backward than we would like to think, that what really motivates us more than anything else is fear.  No, I am not saying that fear is the wellspring of faith.  As I noted earlier, spirituality is innate in us.  But fear is what warps that faith into an exclusionary tool that makes us feel chosen and safe.  When we let our fear run rampant or it is stoked by those with political agendas, all the worst of the human dark side is released.  And of course religion is the perfect tool to use to stoke fear.  Of course it only works if you see the world as us against them and everybody who is not us, must be them.  It is tribalism at its worst and shows how far many of us have to go to become civilized.

But even more important is that most Americans have no understanding why the Constitution in the 1st Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”, or in Article VI, section 3, “but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The founders were the sons and daughters of immigrants who had come to this country to avoid the exact same discrimination that the Muslim Cultural Center in New York is facing, and the President is being falsely accused of, being part of a religious group that is discriminated against.

One would have thought we have moved beyond these appeals to fear and religious intolerance.  Anyone who understands our history would understand that the policies and actions that come out of these motivations are flawed and we look back on them with shame, whether it was our treatment of blacks, the holocaust, or our treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII.  Someday we will look with shame on how we used religion to justify our treatment of gays.  But in the meantime we can watch a civilized society revert to tribalism as we hunker down in our fear of the future and anyone who doesn’t meet our religious tests.  We have come a long way baby.

Religious Tests

Our media has now degenerated into allowing a discussion of a persons religious faith as a qualification for office. What part of “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” is unclear in our Constitution. Conservatives want to take us back to a time before the Enlightenment where we can all be superstitious clans. Insanity rules.

A Day in the Park

Good Seats Don't Require a Bank Loan in the Coliseum

I spent last Wednesday taking a mini-vacation and going to a ball game.  The great thing about sports is that people can love them, hate them, argue passionately about them, but unlike politics, there are never any hard feelings.  Well, except for maybe Oakland Raider fans, but they are kind of like radical barbarian Vikings.  They think bashing someone is a sign of affection.

But I love baseball.  And most of all, I love the Oakland A’s.  I live in northern California so you have two choices, the A’s or the Giants.  I could never be a Giants fan, but I will get to that in a minute.

Baseball is an amazing game that most people don’t get.  It is a game of minute little changes in who has the edge in any given situation.  It’s a game where you have to make split decisions about what is the right play, and the good ones work out their options before every pitch so in that split second where they have to make a choice, they have already decided.

Oh, I know, we have all seen those 12-0 games and what is the big deal?  But when two good teams go at each other, it is always about who makes fewer mistakes.  At each pitch you know who has the advantage, the pitcher or the batter, who is on base and what his base running choices are, where the defense should be positioned, and what their options are based upon how the ball is put in play.  So it is not just the hitter and the pitcher, it is about how the whole team reacts.  And when you see a team play a really good game, it is a thing of beauty.

Day games in Oakland are my favorite.  Usually the weather is in the balmy high 60s or low 70s.  California makes public transportation so easy.  You can ride BART or the Capital Corridor train directly to the Coliseum.  I took the train from Sacramento and it is a relaxing two-hour ride that drops you off right at the stadium.  On the ride in you start thinking about how good that hot dog or polish sausage with a cold beer is going to taste.  You can almost smell it.  When you get to the stadium, the sun is out, everyone is so happy to be there, and even the staff that checks your bags and your tickets has got that sunny glow of anticipation.  It is a beautiful day to forget all your problems and watch baseball.  Even in a bad economy, there are always lines at the food/beer concessions.  It’s part of the game.

Then there is the spectacle itself.  You have to see baseball live, up front and personal to really appreciate it.  On TV you never get how big and powerful these guys are, how quick and agile.  Then you watch a 99 mph fastball and you wonder how anyone gets their bat off their shoulder.  I tried to image when I would decide to swing at one of those pitches and I realized I would be starting my swing in the pitchers windup.  These guys are amazing athletes, and at my age, most of them look so young.

Why do I love the A’s over the Giants?   Because they are a team that has to scrap for everything.  They have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball so what you are going to see is young raw talent, because when they get good, the A’s can’t afford them anymore.  They are kind of like most of us.  They take nothing for granted and they are given nothing.  Their fan base is not the wealthy or the well-heeled, but mostly blue collar working folk.  Their stadium is a reflection of their 2nd class standing.  It is only one of two stadiums in baseball that still shares its field with a football team.  But you have to love these guys.  They don’t have a rich fan base.  They don’t have a first class stadium. On many days they don’t play before large crowds.  But they are out there everyday and their play inspires.  And as my son likes to point out, that other team across the bay that has all the trappings of wealth and fan base, has not won a World Championship since coming to the Bay Area in 1957.  The scrappy little A’s have won four in Oakland, and I got to share one of them with him.

I don’t know, but watching these guys fight for what they can get just reinvigorates me.  It is the little guy overcoming those that inherited what they got.  I can go and enjoy a Giants game in their beautiful stadium, but I just don’t feel like I belong. I also get a nose bleed in the only seats I can afford.   Of course on this particular Wednesday the A’s tried to give me heart failure by giving up a 3-run lead in the top of the ninth, but like Rocky, came back in bottom of the ninth to win it.  So for one beautiful day in the Bay Area, the little guy won.

Howard Dean’s Wayward Comments on the Mosque

Dr. Dean sadly entered into the Mosque fray on the wrong side.  He thinks there is room for compromise.  He sees the 9/11 families that object and he thinks some accommodation can be reached.  The Bill of Rights is not about accommodation.  It is a logical flaw that allows some to completely dismantle the first 10 Amendments.  There are no exceptions.  It is nice to think and emote about the 9/11 families and I can certainly understand their feelings.  But they are irrelevant.  “Congress shall make no law..” is  uncompromisable.  That is the point of the Bill of Rights.  Should we say that there can be no Christian churches within (pick a number) of where abortion doctors were assassinated?  Were these providers of legal services attacked by the Christian faith, or some radical Christians?  If we don’t understand that difference and we don’t understand that our basic beliefs are not up for sympathy votes, then we deserve to become another also failed state.  My sincerest apologies to the founders who were, in their time, the true Progressives.

Dr. Laura

Okay, I will comment and this is in the realm of insanity also. Dr. Laura was on a racist rant because just using the “N” word is racist. But she was also right about hypocrisy. If the word is objectionable, and it so is, it is objectionable for everyone. You don’t get a free ticket because you are black. If it is wrong to use such a degrading term, then it is wrong for everyone. Dr. Laura says her free speech rights were attacked, but they were anything but. She had the mike and she said what she wanted to. Criticism is part of free speech and if she can’t stand the heat, well she is getting out of the kitchen. But black leaders who tell us that blacks can use the term but whites can’t are as mislead as Dr. Laura. There is only one set of values and they apply to all of us. Of course, I am old and I think most of the profanity used by many comedians today is sophomoric, so what do I know?

More News from the Funny Farm

I have been writing this blog from a new perspective.  That is, instead of getting angry at what I see as destructive policies or disingenuous politicians/electorate, I see it for what it really is, insanity.  Ever had one of the moments where after you do something really stupid, you think. “What was I thinking?”  Well I think the whole nation is on one of those binges before the, “what was I thinking” moment.  And everywhere you turn, there is another example smacking us in the face trying to get us to sober up.

Dateline Alaska:  No not Sarah Palin, although apparently the Republican’s best hope for Presidential material did not know Africa was a continent, but she has charisma.  What is insanity are Alaska’s conservatives stand that we are against big government and their Senate representative voting against the stimulus package.  Did you know that per capita Alaska was the biggest receiver (and spender) of stimulus money?  Did you know that one-third of Alaskan jobs are supported by federal dollars?  Me thinks they doth protest too much.  Kind of like those folks who protested against a public option in the health plan and had no idea Medicare is a public option (NY Times).

Dateline Pakistan:  Pakistan is under water (it is insanity itself to continue to deny climate change, but that is an old and reoccurring malady) and we want to send them $3 billion for water projects.  No, the insanity is not the part about water projects.  In a few months they are going to be high and dry and badly need water storage.  The insanity is that our own infrastructure is falling apart, but we cannot spend any money because it might impact the deficit.  Yet nobody asks where the $3 billion will come from, much less the $100 billion we have spent on them trying to buy their allegiance and help in Afghanistan.

Dateline Congress:  Republicans won’t allow another stimulus package because of the impact on the deficit (that’s not really the reason, but that is what they are saying), yet they want to extend the Bush tax cuts which make the stimulus package look like small potatoes when compared to what the extension of these tax cuts will do to the deficit. The real reason they are against another stimulus package is that if it works, they would be out of a job.  Better to have the country fail than to be out of Congress.  No we are not escapees from the asylum.

Dateline Iraq:  THE LAST COMBAT TROOPS LEAVE IRAQ!  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  And if you believe this, you qualify for the padded cells.  We have 56,000 remaining “trainers”.  Do any of you remember the Vietnam war?  For the first six years, we were “advisers”, and the numbers we lost over there make Iraq look like a cake walk.  Let’s see, if you rename a combat brigade, a support brigade, then you no longer have combat troops even though it is the same guy/gal, with the same weapons.  Oh, and ignore the 7000 or so private guards that we are going to empower over there to do “protection”.  That ought to work out well.  It is SO Vietnam.  We couldn’t admit it was over, so we just slowed down the killing for a few years to make it taper off quietly.  Of course there was that final panic at the end when we evacuated.  Gee, that couldn’t happen again could it if the Sunnis and the Shiites finally lapse into a civil war?  I think they are on their way now.

Dateline Washington:  Administration declares gulf clear of oil.  It is safe to go back in the water.  Let’s see.  It is estimated that 5 million barrels of oil gushed out into the gulf and it “just went away”?  Who are they working for, the Chamber of Commerce?  “Oh, it is okay to eat the seafood.”  Is that similar to the claim that the workers at ground zero in New York had nothing to fear from the dust and debris?  The reality is nobody knows, but better to gin up the economy again than worry about the impact to our healthcare system down the road if this disasters turns as deadly as the after effects of 9/11.  This is rational thought?

Dateline California:  The Governor has just ordered more furlough days for government workers and the schools refuse to spend the money they were sent to rehire teachers, saving it for next year when they think the budget shortfall will be worse.  It is going to be a lot worse next year if they keep reducing spending which would stimulate the economy this year.  Is it sane to reduce spending in an economy that is shrinking and nothing seems to jump start it?  My how we have forgotten the lessons of history.

I rest my case.  The inmates are running the asylum.