richardf8: (Default)
I'm neither left nor right, I'm just sitting here tonight,
Staring at that hopeless  little screen.

--Leonard Cohen, "Democracy."

I feel that the time has come to do some political posts.  I am going to begin by laying out my personal political platform.  It's not complicated, and it's not simple, and it's not something I ever get to vote for, because, for reasons I don't understand, many of my causes have been taken up by one party or the other, but not both.  Here goes:
  • I am Pro-Gun and Pro-Choice,
  • Pro-Labor and Pro Israel,
  • I believe that the government has the responsibility to collect taxes and provide services.
  • I believe that people should be generally free to do as they wish, but that the government has an obligation to set  rules where the exercise of one person's freedom poses danger to another person.
That about sums it up.

I generally vote for Democrats, because I find that they do (ever so slightly) more to advance  my agenda than impede it.

richardf8: (Ensign_Katz)
The Israeli Palestinian Conflict: Not a Civil Rights Issue.

I want to get a few thoughts down here. American liberals tend to view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a Civil Rights issue. It's a narrative we are comfortable with, that we understand well, and that we know how to pick sides in. The basic assumption is that the Palestinians are fighting for a right to self determination that is a threat to Israeli hegemony, and if Israel would only give them this freedom, there would be peace. If this were true, the Oslo accords would have resolved the conflict. But there are larger goals in play here.

It is important to understanding the current condition of the conflict to read Hamas' charter. It is a thick read, written in lovely regal language. But its thesis is clear. I will distill a few things here that I think are pertinent.

1. What does Hamas mean by liberation and resisatance? We liberals love these words. We hear them and our sympathies are immediately awakened to poor, hungry masses yearning to be free. But it is not people that Hamas is looking to liberate. It is land. (Article 6 and Article 15). The land is "every inch of Palestine." And that would be Palestine as it looked at the time of the British Mandate. Liberation of the land entails bringing the land under Islamic rule, as Hamas understands it (ibid).

2. Where does Hamas fit among Islamic movements? Hamas is a unit of the Muslim Brotherhood, specializing in the Liberatioan of Palestine (article 2). What this means is that the goals of Hamas are in service to the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.

3. What about the two state solution? Article 13 of the charter should be read in its entirety to understand why this will not work so long as Hamas holds poltical power, but here is a brief quote."There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce."

So, what we should be noticing here is that what Hamas wants for the land it calls Palestine (which is to say the 1947 borders) is the same Islamic rule that, over the past few years was selected and rejected in Egypt, the Egyptians ultimately preferring the political oppression of a military government to the religious oppression of rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The next question is what do the Palestinians want? I can't answer that. The Palestinians, if offered an election, will find themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between Hamas and Fatah. I am convinced that the election of Hamas a decade or so ago was less about alignment with Hamas' goals than it was about throwing the Fatah bums out. I think that during a period of calm, throwing the Hamas bums out would be a real possibility, but that during a time of live fire, there is a tendency to cleave to the more belligerent party which would work in Hamas' favor.

Eliminating Hamas is essential to being able to give the Palestinians the freedom to explore their desires. Achieving this would mean reoccupying Gaza without settling it, and subjecting it to the political oppression now found in Egypt, while working assiduously to improve prosperity. When there is a strong, moderate Gazan majority, it should fight, and win, a war for indepedence that would culminate in its having its current borders with, depending on Egypt's goodwill some additional land in the Sinai. The West Bank could be part and parcel with this or not depending how West Bank and Gaza Arabs feel about each other.

Current liberal attempts to influence the peace process or to coerce Israel into yielding too much too soon do not ultimately support core liberal values like equality or self-determination, because they enable Hamas, for which these values are best relegated to the dustbin.

A Caveat.

Jan. 20th, 2009 06:27 pm
richardf8: (Default)
[ profile] level_head has a post worth contemplating, regardless of its slant, called Unpatriotic.

It's noteworthy to my mind because it points to a way in which we, as Americans, have gotten sloppy in our thinking, especially over the past eight years, but going back farther than that even. We have become accustomed to an us and them style of thought. The right and the left alike have spent the Bush years assimilating the "if you're not with us, your against us" mentality. And here is my warning: any lefty who brings this framework to the Obama presidency is going to be disappointed.

What we have in Obama is someone who grasps realpolitik. And that tends to mean compromise. If the last 8 years have had any effect on our culture at all, it has been to make "compromise" on either side of the fence a dirty word. The partisanship that has been brewing since Nixon, that saw its full flowering in the "Republican Revolution" and the Bush administration have torn this nation limb from limb. Getting us to where we are now demanded that Franken take on Limbaugh, that Maddow deconstruct Coulter, but the battle is now lost and won, and its time for reconstruction.

I think that Obama's ability to blend that which I agree with along with that which I find distasteful speaks volumes about his ability to reintegrate a nation that has been separated as if by a centrifuge. To those who are seeking ideological purity, he will seem a sellout, but to those who want a nation at peace, he may just the ticket.

You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

[Edit: [ profile] bluerain notes: "I actually think it's grossly unfair to cast anyone who is angry at the selection of Warren as displaying an "if you're not with us, you're against us" mentality." This assessment is correct and just, and I have therefore removed the reference from the body of the post. Thanks to her and [ profile] orv for helping refine my thoughts on that.]
richardf8: (Default)
Learned from [ profile] level_head who learned it from [ profile] rowyn that at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, an employee was stampeded to death by a mob awaiting the store's early opening. Do read the story if it is not familiar to you.

Now, where to even begin?

Well, let's see, let's begin on Thanksgiving, when people who were working retail had to be prepared to wake up at 2 or 3AM to be at stores by 4am for 5am openings. Many would have had to have earlier Thanksgiving meals, or given up on it in order to be alert the next day. This was noted by friend Stego.

This is in service of what?

Then there are those 5:00 store openings as well, littered with loss-leaders to entice people into the stores. Heavy discounts on flat screen TV's were common, not just at Wal-Mart, but at Best Buy, and many other outlets across the nation.

This is in service of what?

Then there are the people determined to be first in line, determined to beat their neighbors to those loss-leaders. Instead of getting a good night's sleep and spending the day after Thanksgiving in quality time with family and friends, they're up at God-knows-when so they can get this stuff that no one really needs.

This is in service of what?

There's desperation all over this scenario - the retail worker desperate for a paycheck, the retailer desperate for sales, the consumer desperate for the discount. And all this desperation collided tragically on Friday in Valley Stream, and a man died.

This in service of what?

Ben Zoma would say: "Who is rich, he who is happy with his portion." (Avot 4:11)

If everyone in America followed Ben Zoma, our economy would collapse in a heartbeat. So we live in a world of manufactured need, and discontent with our portion is the engine that drives our economy. And right now, problems in banking and industry are forcing some to learn to be content with their portion, and others to look for bargains that will allow them to assuage their discontent within the constraints imposed by those problems.

Sales like the Black Friday sales are designed to capitalize on the discontent that our culture works so hard to manufacture. And that discontent is a powerful enough force that this year, it killed a man.
richardf8: (Default)
Here are some thoughts of mine on the matter of the Real Estate market correction and its consequences.

The assumption that the bubble came about solely because of subprime lending unhinging home prices from inflation misses the point. The Fed lowering the Prime Rate to levels that were unsustainable in order to combat inflation near the beginning of this decade did a lot to make people seek new mortgages and re-finances who perhaps otherwise would not have. It demonstrates a failure of the "Free Market" that prices so quickly began to outstrip value. One thing this should teach us is that homes, real-estate, have an intrinsic value, separate from the market value. The bursting of the bubble is a "correction," but this is a more tragic correction than, say, a correction in the stock market, because rather than being stock certificates, these are people's homes. So these homes go into foreclosure because, in many cases, the homeowner is burdened with a debt that exceeds the value of his collateral. Seen this happen first hand.

Banks could have taken two approaches - 1) Take a loss by writing a new mortgage for the real value of the house, or 2) Take a bigger loss by foreclosing the home and reselling it in a depressed market, depressing it even further.

Banks seem, by and large to have chosen option 2. It seems to me that any "bailout" would have to favor option 1 - I suspect many homeowners currently faced with foreclosure would greet a manageable monthly payment at a fixed rate with relief.

And this brings me to my last point. If you are buying a house because you plan to fix it up and resell it within a year, perhaps an ARM makes sense. But if you are buying a house as a roof over your head, and a nest egg, then the ARM is a predatory instrument. Especially in times where the prime rate is unsustainably low. If subprime lending is to continue, ARMs should not be among the instruments used: a subprime loan presumes a precarious borrower, it is folly to imagine that such a borrower will be able to manage a higher payment when the rate goes up.

So, my proposals are as follows:

1) Do not write (or underwrite) loans for more than the home is reasonably worth.


2) Do not make ARMs available to subprime borrowers. The more precarious your economic situation, the more important it is that your housing costs be Fixed, not Variable.

Item 1 is tricky, because it raises the problem of how to assess a property's intrinsic value (by which I really mean the market value in a market which is neither inflated nor depressed). I suppose a formula that looks at average home prices over a fairly long period of time, adjusted for inflation would come close.

The effect of people not being to obtain loans for a ludicrously overvalued home would be that they could not make offers on them and the prices would have to reach sane levels before the loans would be written.
richardf8: (HammerWhack)
Senators who voted for cloture, but against Alito
(Also known as craven, lily-livered milksops)

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carper (D-DE)
Chafee (R-RI)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)

If each of these people had had the courage to back up their opposition to Alito with a vote against cloture yesterday, his supporters would have been forced to resort to the raw power play of a senate rules change to seat their boy on the bench. Would they have done it? Who knows? The senators whose names are listed above are the ones so afraid to call that bluff that they were willing to leave the table emptyhanded.

The senators whose names are listed below are the Dems who supported Alito. We may regard them as traitors to the party, but we must acknowledge that they at least have the courage of their convictions, which is more than can be said for the ones listed above.

Byrd (D-WV)
Conrad (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Nelson (D-NE)

While we might wish to commend Lincoln Chaffee for being the only Republican to break ranks, and vote against Alito's confirmation, we cannot do so without also noting that his vote on cloture helped to assure that this no vote of his would be mere empty symbolism, with no ramification for the nominee. The fact that he was alone, while the Dems had 4 breakaways out of a smaller field says something about our respective party discipline.

As for what the future holds - well, the Bush administration has met or exceeded my expectations of it in every regard, and I expect no less of Alito.
richardf8: (Default)
I addressed the following e-mail to Mark Dayton, who opposed the cloture motion on the debate of the Alito nomination. To my liberal California readers - Boxer and DiFi also opposed cloture, and deserve your praise.

Mr. Dayton,

I am just dropping a note to say "thank you" for your "No" vote on yesterday's cloture motion. That vote shows that you have the integrity and intestinal fortitude to stand up for what is right. There are those who voted "yes" yesterday but will vote "no" today, so that they can tell their constituents that they opposed Alito. The only possible response when they do will be "where were you when it mattered?" I am proud that when it mattered, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota was at his station and not hiding under the decks. I regret that you are not running for re-election, if you were you would surely have my vote.
richardf8: (Default)
First, I am unsurprised. We tend to view Hamas primarily as a terrorist organization because that is how it gathers our attention. To Palestinians, however, Hamas is also, and perhaps primarily, a service organization. It has a history of delivering services like health care and child care to Palestinians where both Fatah and Israel have failed to do so. Thus, I think they came to power not on the basis of their hatred for Israel, but rather because most Palestinians see in a Hamas with the government's resources at its disposal the potential for some serious infrastructure and service improvements. As for Hamas' attitude toward Israel . . . I don't think it significantly worse than Fatah's. While Fatah nominally recognized Israel's right to exist, its militant wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, continued operations unabated, with Arafat and then Abbas chiding them publicly not as "wrong" but merely as "ineffective," and this mostly to appease the west. One suspects these men cheered in their hearts at the casualties inflicted.

As for America - we need to move carefully. Money is the language of diplomacy, and there are lessons from the past we must bear in mind. When Anwar Sadat proposed to address the Knesset, Saudi Arabia responded by revoking the aid they were giving Egypt to the tune of $3.5 Billion a year. We were able to preserve that peace process by replacing that aid with aid of our own. This raises the question: If we revoke the aid that we are giving to the Palestinian Authority, who is likely to replace it? Saudi Arabia? Iran? Syria? It seems to me that to grant the power of the Palestinian purse to any of these nations by abdicating it ourselves would scarcely be in our, or Israel's, best interests. The nations likely to replace any funds we revoke, are also likely to make those funds conditional on Hamas' continued rejection of Israel.

So how to move forward? Well, if there is one thing I think Israel owes the territories, it is infrastructure. Quite frankly, if Israel had understood in 1967 that the territories would still be in its hands in the 2000's, it might have taken more seriously the need to make capital improvements to the land. However it persisted in a belief that it would one day exchange those lands for peaceful relations with its neighbors, as it did with Egypt in 1979, and thus its investments were minimal. So working cooperatively with Hamas to create and improve infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank is a step that should be considered, although there are major trust issues to overcome. As trust is built in this way, the foundations of a positive polical relationship can be built, and the pragmatism required to actually govern a people and a land will moderate the dangerous idealism that lurks behind Hamas' terrorism.
richardf8: (Default)
I sent this to Senator Dayton today, via his web form.

I expect senate Democrats to fillibuster this nomination. The purpose of an opposition party is to defend the people of this nation from the tyranny of a grasping Majority.

The decisions of Samuel Alito on every court on which he sat betray a consistent elevation of corporate and government power over individual freedom, on topics ranging from the FMLA to discrimination to abortion. His ascendancy to the Supreme Court would eliminate the last, wafer thin, barrier between the US as a Constitutional Republic and the US as a Corporate Feudal State.

If the Democrats Fillibuster, and the Republicans exercise the so called "Nuclear Option," so be it. It would demonstrate the barefaced brutality of the current regime.

However, if the Democrats do not Fillibuster, then we will find that we have already surrendered to a one party state in which elections are as meaningful as they were in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. There will be no reason to vote any more.

Finally, note that Sandra Day O'Connor has agreed to serve until a replacement is found. Her willingness to prevent an actual Vacancy implies a wish on her part that a Justice more reflective of her values than of Bush's replace her.

Do not fail her.
And do not fail the people of this nation.

Do not vote to end debate on this nomination.
richardf8: (Default)

By Arlo Guthrie
originally written by Steve Goodman
Katrina rewrite by Stephen Johnson

Living in the City of New Orleans
I'm gettin' by, but poor as poor can be
I voted for the man who'd keep me safest
By God, I knew he'd do alright by me.

All along the length of Bourbon Street friendly faces smile at me
Strolling down past cafes, pubs and bars
Passing I remember when, city full of old black men
Played saxaphones under the moon and stars.

Good mornin' America, how are you?
Don't you know me? I'm your native son!
I'm the place they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be doing fine soon as this storm is gone.

You know some say you lied to take us to war
Betting our lives, hoping no one's keeping score
Cut our funds and hoping for the best
But I hear the waves lapping at my door

You said no one could ever forsee this disaster
But that lie you tried to spread was soon revealed
Families with no cash or car, prayed to God to please stand guard
But the rising tide just would not recede

Good mornin' America, how are you?
Say don't you know me? I'm your native son!
I'm the jewel called the City of New Orleans.
I'll be under 20 feet when the day is done.

Swimming through the City of New Orleans
Wish I was in Memphis, Tennessee
Superdome, yeah we'll be there by morning'
And the federal government sure will rescue me

But all the men and women seem to drown in this bad dream
And the journalists still ain't told the truth
The president, he lies again
And asks us not to assign blame
This rain's sure made me lose my faith in you

Good night America, how are you?
Say don't you know me? I'm your native son!
I'm the lesson called the City of New Orleans.
I'll lose 50,000 lives before the nightmare's gone.
richardf8: (Default)

Your Political Profile

Overall: 20% Conservative, 80% Liberal

Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

And troubled by question 13. Lotsa ways to drive the deficit down these days without screwing the poor.
richardf8: (Default)
I was tempted to say, on George W. Bush's position on Stem Cell research, that he might be doing the right thing, if for the wrong reasons, in hampering it. After all, technology growth has outpaced the abilities of our ethicists, philosophers, and religious institutions to develop responses to it that will allow us to use the technology wisely and morally. The commodification of human material is definitely something we need to tread lightly around.

I was tempted, I say, because then I realized something. Bush has not proposed a ban or moratorium on the research, or, for that matter, even the creation of new stem cell lines. Rather, his actions merely amount to a refusal to provide money from the public sector. As I meditated on the implications of this for a moment I realized that what this means is that any meaningful stem cell research that gets done is going to be a strictly private sector endeavor, and that any discoveries, inventions, and methods resulting from this will be the exclusive intellectual property of the corporations that funded it.

Publicly funded research has given us an awful lot. The internet emerged from a DARPA funded project at MIT. Developments in radio and television also have their roots in publicly funded (mostly military) research, and it is because it was publicly funded that these things became as pervasive as they have.

It seems to me that what Bush is doing isn't so much about "the sanctity of life," as it is about excluding the public sector from a technology with significant business potential, and ensuring that the patents are privately held. Whether that is his intention, or merely the effects of him short-sightedly following his moral compass, I cannot tell.
richardf8: (Default)
I am a person of faith. So are many people, Jewish and Christian, Muslim and Buddhist who read my journal. And I feel that there is a war being raised against some of the fundamental tenets of my faith, from people like the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. (I don't know who the speaker of the House is these days, so upstaged has he been by DeLay).

These people have been seeking to put into law very specific elements of the very specific splinter of Christianity in which they engaged. And every time Liberals talk about "the separation of Church and State," these wingnuts have a cow about how evil secularists and atheists are on a crusade to destroy Christianity in America. Their perception seems to be that they are being oppressed if their beliefs, and their beliefs alone are not being legislated, are not forming the basis for jurisprudence, and are not being enforced at home and on the world stage.

As many conservatives will point out, there is no "separation of Church and State" in the constitution. And they are right - this concept is the result of judicial interpretation. The Constitution gives us the "establishment clause" in its first Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . ."

Let's take a good hard look at this, leaving behind for the moment the notion of "separation of Church and State" and asking ourselves why it is there at all. First and foremost it codifies an important religious sentiment that we find in the Concessions and Agreements establishing the colony of New Jersey, written by William Penn, namely that "that no man, nor number of men upon earth, hath power or authority to rule over men's consciences in religious matters" (Joseph Story). This is an important notion to understand: the establishment clause is there not to prohibit prayer in schools, necessarily, nor to prohibit display of the Ten Commandments, necessarily, but to guarantee the the state does nothing to compromise the individual's relationship with God. Now this remains true regardless of whether that relationship is one of disavowal, a belief in an abstract "creator," or a belief in a personal God or gods.

Justice Thomas Black, writing in EVERSON v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF EWING TP., 330 U.S. 1 (1947) illuminates for us the historical milieu from which the establishment clause arose:
A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government favored churches. The centuries immediately before and contemporaneous with the colonization of America had been filled with turmoil, civil strife, and persecutions, generated in large part by established sects determined to [330 U.S. 1, 9] maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. With the power of government supporting them, at various times and places, Catholics had persecuted Protestants, Protestants had persecuted Catholics, Protestant sects had persecuted other Protestant sects, Catholics of one shade of belief had persecuted Catholics of another shade of belief, and all of these had from time to time persecuted Jews. In efforts to force loyalty to whatever religious group happened to be on top and in league with the government of a particular time and place, men and women had been fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed. Among the offenses for which these punishments had been inflicted were such things as speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, nonattendance at those churches, expressions of non-belief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them.

What we are witnessing today is precisely this scenario: a particular flavor of Christianity is seeking to forge an alliance with the government, though which it can force loyalty to its notion of "family values" or "morals" or whatever the buzzword of the day happens to be. The first amendment is intended to safeguard the relationship between man and God, such that it cannot be hijacked by any single religious persuasion.

So this, then is the right wing War on Faith: If you are Presbyterian, Quaker, United Church of Christ, Reformed Jewish, any kind of Jewish really, Muslim, Buddhist, etc, then according to these people YOUR FAITH IS NOT VALID. And here comes the sticky part: because we are not so prideful as to say "You're wrong because God said so," we do not appear to speak with the moral authority that they do.

So what can we do? For starters, we need to invoke God. Seriously. Even in a war of prooftexting, we can win this thing if we so choose. We tend to be afraid to do this, because we can't know that God is on our side. However, I don't think that's true - I think God IS on our side, and that it can be demonstrated from any holy text we care to cite. I was once asked by a fellow learner in Torah Study "How can we know?"

It's a valid question. The answer is a matter of history and projection - if we examine the pattern that has given us Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and look at what it parallels in the past what do we see? I see a Holocaust survivor in my congregation describing how, upon being seen with a scrap of Army blanket she had found to keep herself warm, she was made to kneel with her arms over her head for five hours, during which she fainted three times. Her treatment was virtually identical to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as described in a report by the ICRC:

The physical tactics noted by the Red Cross included placing detainees in extremely cold rooms with loud music blaring, and forcing them to kneel for long periods of time. . . .

It's not difficult to see where the policy leads. And as for the notion that it is hyperbole or hysteria to draw on the Holocaust for comparison the only thing I can say is that the notion that the Holocaust was somehow a unique or aberrant evil is the greatest assurance that it WILL happen again. All of us have within us not only a spark of divine goodness, but an evil inclination as well, and when that inclination is appealed to on a national stage, it scales up better that a Linux Beowulf cluster. We insist on believing that the holocaust was perpetrated by inhuman monsters, when in fact is was perpetrated by people JUST LIKE US, to whose worst instincts a simple megalomaniac appealed. When we see a nation being encouraged to vote against granting a right to a particular population, when we see a nation that looks the other way when it's citizens are denied justice and due process, we see a nation that has not God, but the evil inclination perched on it's shoulder.

We need to understand that as people of faith we have the RESPONSIBILITY to invoke God. Because if we do not, then we sell Him into slavery to the false prophets who invoke the divine crown for the sole purpose of increasing their power and wealth.

Works Cited

richardf8: (Default)
Howard Tomb writes in a letter to the New York Times that

Our current system of missile defense - known as "mutually assured destruction" - has worked flawlessly night and day for half a century. It promises nuclear annihilation for any country that attacks us with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"Mutually Assured Destruction" was an effective deterrent against the Russians because the Russians didn't want to die. Communism lacks any eschatological narrative that would make death seem like a good thing.

It ceases to work when one of the parties comes to believe that the death of one's opponents is so great an end that if one's own people die as a result, they will receive a martyr's reward. This is precisely why nuclear arms in the hands of theocratic governments become quite frightening: they provide the potential to make eschatological prophecies self-fulfilling.
richardf8: (Default)
I haven't been able to bring myself to do a political cartoon since the election, but today, this idea came upon me, so I sketched it out at work with gel-pen on bond paper. I couldn't find my pencil, so this is the totally unrehearsed product of my pen.

The different ways liberals and conservatives parse the messages they receive is something that has been occupying my mind quite a bit of late. This is also the first time I've drawn people from the rear, and I'm kind of pleased with how they turned out. I do wish I had made the TV big enough to do more with my Bush caricature.
richardf8: (Default)
Politics these days has become utterly devoid of statesmanship, and so poisoned with partisan bickering that nothing good ever gets done. Instead of working together, Democrats and Republicans have taken a position of propose and oppose. When the party in power proposes something, the other party responds not with "that's a good idea, but we have the following concerns," but rather with shrill prophecies of gloom and doom. It should be noted that I've observed this phenomenon with both parties in power.

I'm going to use as an example a state issue here in Minnesota. Governor Tim Pawlenty is pushing to increase ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 20%. He says this will help wean us from fossil fuels. The opposition says it won't, and opposes it.

Now Minnesota's a corn growing state - big ag loves this idea, because it creates new markets for corn. Big oil loves this plan, as it stands, because the energy for everything from growing to distilling to delivery speaks well to their bottom line. Because of these inefficiencies, the goal of reducing dependence on fossil fuels is not likely to be met by the Pawlenty plan.


If our goal is reducing dependence on fossil fuel, then efficiency doesn't matter, so long as the energy input is not from fossil sources. Use biodiesel in the farm equipment, get solar power and wind farms to provide btu's for the stills and you are now converting non-fossil energy into stuff the cars can use. This would be a great step in the right direction. Producing fuels on the surface, from fuels on the surface would set us well on the road to energy independence.

But the opposition does not propose these modifications to the Pawlenty plan, they just say we ain't goin' for it. And mostly that's political. Pawlenty has designed a plan that Democrats are likely to shoot down so he can call them obstructive. Democrats are likely to shoot it down to make him look weak. The result is that instead of crafting policy, our political system has about as much value to our society as the WWF Wrestling.
richardf8: (Default)
Went to see National Treasure this evening, looking for brainless mind candy, and all I can say is wow. Just wow.

Well actually, I'm going to say a lot more than that.

it gets kinda spoilery )
I expect I will own this one on DVD - I imagine that more is buried in there.
richardf8: (Default)
I am not a consumer of pornography, and I never have been. But back in the 80's when Larry Flynt was under fire, I was content to take his side. Not because I have any taste for his product (I once looked at a Penthouse and found it . . . disturbing), but rather because I understood what few Americans understood at the time - that ANY restriction on speech is EVERY restriction on speech.

Larry Flynt was an excellent choice for an attack on free speech. The right didn't like him because he was Im-MOE-ral, the left didn't like him because his portrayals of women perpetuated a rape culture. In short he was someone that you could love to hate regardless of your political persuasion, and to many on both sides of the fence, restricting his press freedom seemed a good idea at the time.

But it wasn't.

It was the groundwork for the actions of the moral majority, giving the FCC ever greater enforcement power over what was said on the airwaves. It was the bedrock of rules regarding Indecent and Obscene speech. And there is a VERY fine line between enforcement and retribution. And where government retribution becomes a possibility, basic freedoms are lost.

We are approaching the final stages of this game. Our media is useless. I will refrain from arguing whether it is "liberal" or "conservative." Truth is, it doesn't matter any more because primarily the media are a)Greedy and b)Fearful. The result is this:

CBS and UPN have refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ that states that it welcomes gays and lesbians. Here is the reason they give:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Contemplate that for a moment: The federal government has proposed an amendment to the constitution, and rather than engage in speech that would foster discussion, major networks are prattling about "controversy."

The problem can be summed up in this one single event: Janet Jackson's Boob. That event set the stage for the FCC levying unreasonable fines for something over which the network had no control, and this was followed swiftly by fines for Howard Stern's material, at which they had looked askance for decades.

The message, of course, is that the Federal Government has retributive powers over broadcast media. Because sex sell and because obscenity rules or vague, if a broadcaster publishes a message that runs afoul of the government, it may be subject to the government's arbitrary punishment.

The result is a media that is, in essence, the executive's mouthpiece, afraid, by its own admission, to run afoul of that executive's mouthpiece, both because of the threat of fines and because of the carrot of increased market share.

With such a media, the most important fundamental of democracy, a population well informed about all sides of the issues, is destroyed.
richardf8: (Default)
This is going to be a bit tricky to write but here goes.

My previous post addressed only half the problem we are facing right now. Now it's time to look at the other half.

If you are one of those Christians - conservative or liberal - who built a web site making the Christian case against George Bush, bravo! If you were out there protesting the war, dressed like Jesus and carrying a sign that says "not in my name!" Bravo.

And if you created or passed around the JesusLand map, or are comparing "Christian" voters to the hillbillies in Deliverance, shame! [ profile] the_ferrett makes a good point when he says that if one were to say the things some of us have been saying about Christians with regard to say, Blacks, or Jews, or Gays, it would unleash a firestorm.

And please, spare me any crap about how it's impossible, by definition, to oppress the dominant regime. People are people, and whether or not one is part of the "dominant regime" is every bit as much an accident of birth as any other trait they might possess. And derision hurts, regardless of who you are.

In my previous post, I quoted someone very slightly out of context. I'm going to give you a bit more of her comment now, because it raises some important questions:

As a lesbian Catholic, I have not spoken from my religious views on LJ. I'm constantly amazed at what people will say about how it's WRONG to be a Christian here.

Is this what we've done? Have we forced our Christians into the caves? Has the left, with its great claims of "Diversity" been actively silencing the very voices we most need in our choir?

Indeed, we have cultivated a culture in which anyone who is affiliated with the dominant regime is too afraid of giving offense to speak their minds. We have such a great fear of conflict that we let our differences fester without discussion until they explode into major rifts. So now we some sort of holy war raging in our midst between the camps of faith and reason, and we have placed our allies on the defensive against us.

Good Job!

Diversity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gives us e pluribus unum, from the many, one. On the other hand it gives us "divide and conquer."

Which one of these things do you think Grover Norquist is counting on?

So, grab that beat-up six string, the one with the sunflower applique around its sound hole and sing with me, folks:

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

Faith and Science together, we shall not be moved.
Faith and Science together, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

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