Monday, April 20, 2015
So Marco Rubio, alone among potential R presidential candidates as far as I know, understands that sexual preference is not a choice. Good for him. Given the proclivities of his potential voters, it seems brave and principled; also rare commodities among his fellow supplicants. (There's plenty of time for him to change on this one, though, as he has with so much else.)
... During an appearance on CBS' "Face The Nation," Rubio, who launched his 2016 presidential campaign last week, said that he believes the definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The Florida senator also added said that same-sex marriage was not a constitutional right and should be decided by state legislatures, not the courts. Despite his position, Rubio added that he didn't think being gay was a choice. "I also don't believe that your sexual preferences are a choice for the vast and enormous majority of people," he said. "In fact, the bottom line is I believe sexual preference is something that people are born with."...Now all he needs to do is reconcile the irreconcilable: if sexual preference is inborn, and since the bible declares homosexuality an abomination punishable by eternal damnation and no cake or pizza at weddings, not to mention diesel repair when the need arises, how can his god be a loving one? Explain, please, Marco. Along with the basis for rejecting same-sex marriage.
But who cares? Rubio has tried to position himself pretty much everywhere, sort of a Schrodinger's hep cat. I've heard it said that he's everyone's second choice for president (everyone being Republicans, of course.) Guess it's better than last place, but it doesn't seem likely to get him very far. Maybe #2 on the ticket? Having such a generally reasonable view of the origins of sexual preference seems unlikely to get him through the primaries. But veep is about general elections and appealing more broadly.
Guess we'll have to stay tuned.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
These headlines are all on the Talking Points Memo website today. Just a single slice of the molded bread that is what's become of today's Republican party and those who support it. And those whose support it seeks. And the propaganda machine that spews its insanity. Is it any wonder that those of us who pay attention and who have/had hopes for a future for a viable two party system, are depressed? As Charles P Pierce likes to say, these truly are the mole people.
Huckabee: Don't Enlist till We Get a More Godly President
Fox Contributor: If We Allow Gays To Get Married, Why Not Siblings?
Trump Lets His Followers Know 'Hillary Clinton Can't Satisfy Her Husband'
Neo-Nazi: I Hate Gay People 'With A Passion' And I've Killed
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Currently, the estate tax applies to leavings over about $11 million for a married couple, which represents significantly less than one percent of the populus. Not only that, as many people don't seem to understand, the tax, currently @ 40%, applies only to money above that amount. So the tax on an estate of about $11 million plus one dollar would be forty cents. In addition to which, there are loopholes aplenty, allowing many large estates to avoid taxes.
Despite those facts, the right wing screamers have managed to get Joe and Jane Sixbucks to be outraged that such a tax, cheerfully transmogrified into "the DEATH tax," exists. As if.
Today those America-loving Congressional Teabaggers voted to repeal the tax, giving a sop to the wealthiest of their contributers, and doing nothing for average Americans except to reduce funds available to pay for stuff that average Americans need, and about which the most wealthy don't need to give a shit. As long as there's a D in the White House (one assumes) it won't pass; but it makes clear, yet again, just where their priorities are. And why electing a Republican president would be a disaster for anyone and everyone not among those to whom the estate tax applies.
Senator Warren has some thoughts:
"I can't believe it," she said. "Well, yes, I can. This isn't just a really bad idea. This is an attack on our values -- getting rid of the estate tax in order to help a handful of really rich people, and telling our children that there's no money for them to go to school, to help them with their student loans, to build the necessary infrastructure so that they can get to and from the jobs that will help them pay off those loans...well, that's just...obscene."
Which is the greater threat to our future? Straw men or budgets designed to enrich the already wealthy at the expense of everyone else? Seems pretty obvious, unless you watch Fox "news" every day, listen to Rush and Michael and Alex and Ann and Laura... In which case, yet again, you'll vote to retain the most regressive and cynical Congress in generations, and believe you're doing yourself and your country a favor. When the opposite, clearly as it can be, is true.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Here's my latest newspaper column, a belated (the paper's timing, not mine) entry into the Christians-selling-cake controversy:
This is a tough one.
My first reaction, when our neighbor-state baker refused to serve a gay couple, was that she ought to have the right to decide who takes her cake. There’s a funambulist in me that still wonders. But the crudely hatched, later revised Indiana law has brought issues into focus, especially as we watched their governor serially refusing to answer whether it provides an excuse for discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. It did, of course, until changed, as a pizza joint subsequently showed us. (And yet they indulge the sin of gluttony!) Which raises the question: do the revisions make the Indiana law moot? Not really. They gave it a shot. Other states are upping the ante.
When considering whether anti-discrimination laws impinge on religious freedom, it’d be nice to have agreement on what such freedom actually means. It’ll never happen. Is requiring equal treatment for LGBT citizens really an attack on religious practice? Every potential R presidential candidate thinks so. Does speaking out against discrimination based on sexual orientation amount to a lynch mob? Newt and Ted say yes. A thoughtful letter here recently asked why a pro-choice sign-maker isn’t forced to make signs against abortion. To that, anyway, the answer is blessedly simple: anti-discrimination laws are about classes of people, not opinions.
Maybe it depends on the meaning of “religious practice.” The more I think about it, the stranger I find claims of interference, because it suggests that selling a cake is a religious act with religious implications. What it is, is commerce, suggesting nothing about the religion of the actor; nor can religious devotion be deduced by transferring possession of a cake. How does selling one amount to renunciation of your religion? Isn’t it just following the Golden Rule? If you love the sinners, bake them a cake. If you don’t love their sexual behavior, don’t participate. Religion survives, everyone’s happy.
Well, no, of course not. This is America, land of the highest percentage of evolution deniers, the lowest percentage of climate change believers, and the highest number of houses of worship per capita of any Western country. It’s a nation that rounds off to entirely Christian, nearly all of the elected variety of whom are busy writing and enacting Bible-based laws (while warning about Sharia law); yet who claim it’s they whose beliefs are under attack.
Many individual Christians and churches have no problem with same-sex marriage. In that sense, exercising one’s religious beliefs is a particular, not a universal act. If you believe homosexuality is a sin, you’re hardly alone; but neither are you in possession of religious consensus or immutable truth, especially the sort that generally justifies defiance of civil law. So unless someone is telling you not to believe what you choose to believe, not to attend the church of your choice, not to transfer your creed to your kids, when you conclude your religion requires you to break the law, you’ve made a profound decision. In this case, you will have concluded that your faith obligates treating a group of people as second-class citizens, demands discriminating against them based on their sexual orientation, compels taking upon yourself the judgment of individuals whose legal behavior affects you in no way -- judgments that others might comfortably leave to God. That failure to act on that judgment negates your religion. Historically, civil disobedience has been carried out for higher purpose than the right to discriminate. The opposite, usually.
I wish we lived in a world where religion wasn’t used as an excuse for bigotry. I wish there were agreement on where the line is between religious and secular law. I wish laws protecting minorities weren’t necessary. Maybe really small, family-owned businesses should be allowed their prejudices if they post them on a sign. Let the market decide.
The good news is that godly people around the country who share the pizzeria owners’ views of homosexuality, certain, among other misconceptions, that it’s a choice, have donated nearly a million dollars to the shop owners. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I’d have thought He’d prefer to have seen that kind of money given to food banks. But maybe that’s just me.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
This article, admittedly on a left-wing blog, confirms what I've said many times, many ways: there may be liberal whackos, people who reject facts to serve their beliefs, who post conspiratorial claims; but, unlike their Republican equivalents, they aren't considered mainstream, nominated to run against Obama, nor are their publications given credence by Democratic politicians. Like this website receives from Republicans across the board:
... The first article coincided with the April 15, 2014 lunar eclipse (also referred to as a "blood moon"). WND argued that the blood moon was actually a divine warning against Obama's evil executive actions.
Now, almost one year later, another WND article coincided with the April 4, 2015 blood moon. This time, the article stated that it was actually Obama's negotiation over Iran’s nuclear program that was “totally tied to these Blood Moons”.
As you can see, they can't make up their mind why Obama is to blame, just know that he is.
The conservative pastor they featured in the article also argued that the blood moons are coinciding pretty closely with major Jewish holidays. True, actually. If he had done even the smallest amount of research, he would know that is because the Jewish calendar is based on the LUNAR calendar rather than the 12-month solar calendar. But NO: a natural and predictable phenomenon that has occurred since our planet's birth is due to President Obama. That makes more sense.
Seriously. Article posits that the blood moons are actually divine warnings to the president because he is trying to promote peace in the Middle East...Well, other than it's laughable, it's pretty disturbing. A phenomenon that's been predictable, and predicted for thousands of years, is attributed to our current president's evil ways. If the idiot who spewed the drivel is unaware of how solar and lunar cycles work, he's deeply uninformed. Just as today's Republicans, with their attacks on public education, would like their voters to be.
If he is aware and says it anyway, he's a liar, a deliberate deceiver, and a shameful hypocrite. (Yeah, say today's elected Rs, you say that as if it's a bad thing.)
Friday, April 10, 2015
If there's one thing Republicans hate it's granting asylum for people fleeing danger in their home country. Except, you know, the danger of public education.
... “The Republicans have put home-schooling as a priority for asylum in the United States ahead of murder, rape, child abuse,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) said. Gutierrez doesn’t “object to the provision in Chaffetz’s bill but thinks it’s unfair to help home-school families without aiding children fleeing drug and gang violence and abuse in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” USA Todayreported after the bill’s passage in committee. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is the original sponsor for the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act...Covering the back end, I guess. Because in case their plan to ruin public education in this country fails, they know they can count on the home-schooled (i.e., kids taught that science is evil and the earth is 6,000 years old and Obama is a Kenyan terrorist) to produce future fodder (cannon, and otherwise.) And just in case that falls short, let's bring 'em in from wherever we can find them.
Priorities. I'm gonna assume I'm not the only person who finds this weird. But I've been wrong before.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Looks like there are limits to the latest right-wing scam: if you want to make money online after doing something egregious, like shooting a black guy if you're a cop, you need to look both ways before pulling the trigger. Because if you're being filmed, and if the video shows you were flat out lying, even the fundie funders may balk. Hard as that is to believe.
As long as there's no evidence, I'm sure you're still good to go. And if you want to refuse service to gays, the big bucks will still roll in. Don't know why the florist only made $150K while the pizza joint hauled in $840K, but it's a good gig either way.
One can hardly imagine how much Darren Wilson would have raked in, had he also been in the pizza shop/bakery/florist business.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Congressional Rs loves them some defense spending. (Well, okay, some Ds do, too.) Here's a few examples of how wisely our bucks are spent:
... The flying radar that practically has to be over the launch pads to see anything. The rocket-interceptor that was too long for any ship in the Navy to carry. (Nobody figured this out in advance? Even I could have done that math.) The multiple-kill vehicle -- cool name, by the way -- that was so completely fked up that they couldn't even figure out a way to make it fly. And the big ugly ship with the massive seaborne radar that was vulnerable to corrosion because ships spend much of their time, you know, at sea...[Picture is a screenshot from a link within the link]
Monday, April 6, 2015
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Friday, April 3, 2015
Oh, no! The horror!! A possible agreement with Iran on their nukes??? Without a shot being fired??? My god. Our right wing will hype this as tantamount to treason, at worst, and as deadly naivete at best. While Dick Cheney spews his usual "worst president in my lifetime" claim. Peace. Healthcare. Recovering economy. Jobs. What could be worse?
And, no, I don't really trust Iran. But there is precedent for bad actors following the rules, especially when they know the consequences of not doing so. And, yes, I think the sanctions, decried as usual by all the right wing screamers, were a major part of pressuring an agreement.
Today's elected Republicans, and those that elect them, and the networks of propaganda that help with the deceptions, won't find anything good in anything Obama has done or will do. Especially if it means robbing them of their most favorite thing, war. Useless weapon systems. Defense contractors. Sending other people's kids to fight and die. While not paying for it. Scott Walker promises to do to the deal what he's already done to his state. Destroy it. But for the rest of us, including those scarce true conservatives, avoiding war isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I assume, as it is with efforts to address climate change, Mitch McConnell is, as we speak, penning letters, maybe with Tom Cotton's help, to our allies suggesting they reject any agreement with Iran, and to Iran, imploring them to choose war. It's what patriots do, after all. God bless us, one and all.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
When we lived in San Francisco during my surgery training, we went through a time of city-wide water restrictions. As I remember, it started out voluntary, and we did all the recommended things: quick showers (ours was too small for the together thing), reusing "grey water" to water a few plants, following the "yellow is mellow, brown goes down" rule. When it became mandatory that people cut their use by some percent or other, we worried that since we'd already done it we might be penalized based on our reduced use. I don't recall that that happened.
So now it's way worse in California, and Jerry Brown has ordered rationing statewide. Charles P Pierce has a few things to say about it and, as usual, I agree:
.... I have no idea what will happen if water, fully commodified, becomes the new oil. (And that process already is underway in a lot of places, including here.) But one thing that will make that phenomenon immeasurably worse would be if the conservation-vs.-consumption argument frames the policy alternatives. If it devolves to the point where the unlimited ability to water your lawn, or to build your new golf course, becomes the same kind of battle for "freedom" that owning an SUV has become in relation to climate change and the dwindling supply of fossil fuels. This is too important an issue to be handled by the engineered infantilism of our political culture.This is yet another example of how the devolution of our political system into uselessness, by way of childish gamesmanship and selfish denialism, will have long-lasting effects. And whereas liberals might have to make some compromises when it comes to fish, I'd say it's conservatives and their refusal to address climate change, and their pathetic insistence that the only money we spend will be to build more tanks and useless aircraft, that will bear the blame of history. Assuming history doesn't stop.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Everyone knows that abstinence education doesn't work, right? Or at least doctors must know. And if not them, certainly people in the party of former half-term governors of Alaska with out-of wedlock grandkids. Right?
Honest to gods, I can't understand why any halfway normal person (and I suppose I just answered my own question) can vote for a single Republican at any level, even if the politician in question were that theoretical thoughtful one, the kind of which legends speak, and about which, in the future, stories will be told, in whispers, around campfires fed by the rotting timbers of buildings long gone. Because a vote for any of them is a vote for this guy. Who happens to be, among other things, a doctor.
Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday. The amendment to the House budget proposal—offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman)—diverts $3 million over the next biennium to abstinence-only sexual education programs.
House Democrats fought against the amendment in a debate that rapidly devolved into awkward farce, with Rep. Spitzer revealing details of his own sexual history as proof of the effectiveness of abstinence. For those keeping tabs at home, he was a virgin until marrying his wife at age 29, although he declined to answer a question from Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) on whether she was the first person he propositioned. “Decorum,” shouted state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).
It's beyond mystifying. It's incomprehensible, and while it slowly drives me crazy, it's rapidly running our country to ruin on the rails of Republican radical refusalism.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
I have a conservative acquaintance who considers Charles Krauthammer the smartest guy on earth. Me, I think Paul Krugman's description of Newt Gingrich applies equally to ol' Chuck: he's the stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like.
So it didn't surprise me in the least that Dr K, after years of Mitch McConnell doing the same, only more so, is all angry and stuff at Harry Reid.
“Harry we hardly knew ye, and what we did know, we didn’t like,” Krauthammer said on “Special Report.”
Krauthammer said that he wasn’t against Reid being a partisan, but explained, “I do think he was a disgrace to his own institution because he emasculated it in the name of protecting the president and trying to re-elect Democrats.”
Krauthammer also charged Reid with shutting down the Senate as soon as Republicans took the House in 2010.In a world that made any sense at all, in one where people had even the teeniest bit of self-awareness, you'd think such statements would be preceded by "Look, I realize that when the situation was reversed I said the exact opposite and that this is stunningly hypocritical, but..."
Friday, March 27, 2015
Never mind the buzz over Ted "the one" Cruz; forget about the familial glow of Jeb "the smart one" Bush. The guy who the thinkers of the right (I know, I know) consider the true standard-bearer of Republican policy is Scott Walker. I believe the word for that is... un-fucking-believable. Because he's taken his state, buried it, and danced on the grave.
... Wisconsin ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of a shrinking middle class, with real median household incomes here falling 14.7 percent since 2000, according to a new report.
All other states showed some decline but none as great as Wisconsin’s 5.7 percent figure.
“Our recent experiment in Wisconsin to undermine this legacy has brought us the greatest contraction of the middle class in the country,” he said.
In addition, many Wisconsinites are now paying a higher percentage of their income to cover housing costs. In 2000, only 24 percent of state families were spending more than the 30 percent of their income on rent or a mortgage but that has increased to 31 percent.
Also, the median household income in Wisconsin was $60,344 in 2000 but now stands at just $51,467 after adjusting for inflation. That’s a dip of 14.7 percent.
Put another way, Wisconsin incomes were well above the national average in 2000 but are now below the national average, according to the data...
And that article doesn't even mention the increasingly drastic cuts to needed services, as they scramble to address deficits while hewing to the tax-cut-as-revenue-enhancer catechism.
Truly, we've come to find ourselves in some parallel universe, where the more something is true, the less it is to be believed. I can only wonder when we're gonna discover that down is up and that gravity makes us all float away.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
When I was in about the fourth grade, I wrote stories. One was about a family out for a drive, with a statue of Jesus, or Mary, or maybe it was St. Jude, on their dashboard. There was a crash. Everyone survived unhurt, except for of one of the kids whose eye was poked out by the statue. My awakening to irony and mythology was possibly precocious.
And now this. Not made up. Horrific. Horrifying. Seven kids killed, on the Sabbath, by a fire started by a hotplate, used in lieu of an open flame, per Orthodox Jewish rules. How unspeakably awful. And let's not invoke irony here, because there are no subtleties: it's just too terrible from all points of view. But can we finally all agree that -- or at least wonder if -- we're much better off if there is no god; because if there is, he's truly an awful entity. Cruel. Uncaring. Egotistical. Criminally abusive. If he's there, let's just stop pretending that he cares about our supplications, or that he deserves our praise. Let's stop groveling and try to make the best of a bad thing. Because if this sort of thing happens, what difference does it make? He'll do what he'll do, and it won't be nice. People rationalize how this can be, with vapid answers. Like abused kids, they still love the abuser. Praise the lord.
How not to feel deep sadness for the family; for the mother who (so far) survived the fire, for the dad off to a religious retreat for the weekend. Honoring the god of their beliefs with more devotion than most, suffering the greatest of all possible tragedies. And reaching the dad was made harder by rules against using electronics. On the Sabbath. Seems obvious that family would still be alive and together, had they not followed those arbitrary rules.
How to reconcile this sort of occurrence with the lengths people go to, following variably prescribed dicta based on contradictory interpretations of the oft-translated and mistranslated and regularly misconstrued words in books of dubious origin. How to explain continuing to do so in the face of so much evidence that there's no one there, on the other end, listening or caring? Miracles, or answers to prayers, are what we call it when he does something unexpectedly decent. It's because of their rarity that we consider them deliberate, while ignoring the implications of what, by definition, are his less pleasant and altogether more frequent acts. Strange.
There is, of course, something satisfying in ritual, whether it's based on religion or family tradition. Weekend picnics. Playing "Oh Hell" after dinner. Climbing the fence to get to the annually-appearing pond and greeting the latest generation of frogs and salamanders. Beyond the fun, it's comforting to count on certain things, against uncertainty. I get that, and I'm all in. For that matter, I always (mostly) liked our Seder dinners, especially because Grandpa skipped over half the pages in the Haggadah. I thought it was funny. And I still miss him.
But why add the unnecessary layer of magic? As Ted Cruz rallies evangelicals to "vote their values," exhorting them to crown him their king so he can ascend to his destiny, justifying regressive, cruel, selfish, astonishingly hypocritical, and shallow policies to gain the praise and payments of the rich and powerful, can't we yet see the danger of it all? Is there no way we poor humans and our miserably fearful minds can find a way to face reality, to live well and good and happily, generously, empathetically, for no reason other than that it's right? Objectively right. As opposed to the cruelty of Ted Cruz. Do we really need a book of self-canceling tales to keep away our fears? Do we really need to follow made-up rules designed to make us think we're more in control than we really are (not to mention pay the clergy)? Can't we just face life as it is? Wouldn't it be healthier?
But, of course, no, we can't. It's not how we're built. "That's all there is" isn't enough. Too scary, too tough to swallow. And, for so many, I guess, too hard to see the higher morality in good for goodness' sake.
So, magical thinking it is. It keeps the monsters from taking root under the bed. It gives meaning to those unable to find enough of it within themselves and their loved ones. It's better than living in fear, I guess. Better than being overwhelmed. But what a bitter commentary on one's view of life: tolerable only by hiding from its most central feature. And if there's a more despicable view of life and one's own sense of morality than that of the right-wing hater-icon and grifter extraordinaire of Duck Dynasty fame, I don't know what is. Absent his much-proclaimed faith, he says, he'd be a rapist and murderer, and so would you.
I'm indescribably sad for that poor family in Brooklyn, and their friends and their congregation. More, I'm deeply worried about the future of a once-great nation, increasingly turning to magical thinking as our self-created problems become ever more challenging.
[Image from NYT, linked article.]
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
A Republican congressman has introduced legislation that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths every school year. He said the legislation is necessary because Americans don’t have “freedom from religion.”
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, would protect the religious freedom of American troops.
“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement.
The U.S. Air Force Academy announced in 2013 that cadets would not be required to say “so help me God” while reciting the Honor Oath.
The oath, which the cadets recite at the beginning of every school year, reads: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.”
Johnson said the Air Force’s Academy only made the end of the oath optional “because of one radical atheist group’s demands!”