Archive for the 'Politics' Category


The American Fundamentalist – Tea Partyism

More reading material. I found the article by Andrew Romano in this week’s Newsweek, America’s Holy Writ, a nice summary of the Tea Party phenomenon. Follow the link for the story (Newsweek needs the support).

Exploring the Tea Party through the lens of fundamentalism is instructive. While many of the Tea Party group may be religious fundamentalist, that is not the point here. Their fundamentalism is based on the “scripture” of the constitution. It goes beyond strict constructionist thought or even the worship of the document. It is that there interpretation is correct and static. Or, as the article puts it: “Like other fundamentalists, they seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine.”

That is the aha moment for me. It is like any religious fundamentalist. We know best. We have the answers. If you don’t understand, we will explain it to you. When you talk to a fundamentalist Christian, you are not going to change their mind, or even have a discussion on any issue. They have the answers right in the book in their hand. The earth is 6,000 years old. God just planted those dinosaur bones as a joke on scientist. They can tell you that their God is love while Allah is hate – while holding a book that expressly tells stories of their God telling his people to go and slaughter everyone in a city. They eat shrimp, they don’t own slaves nor do they stone anyone. But, they know that every word is the word of God. In the fundamentalist world, they don’t have to think about it anymore.

In this view, I can see the Tea Partiers as filled with fervor rather than just hate. It is no less alarming, though. They are a loud and offer something soothing: black and white answers, absolutism, a romanticized vision of the past. But, just as god, any god, would not create a human with a brain and then ask them not to use it, I don’t think the Founders thought they had created the end all, be all of a constitution. If they had, they wouldn’t have made room for amendments. Mr. Romano ends his article by quoting several lines from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Samuel Kercheval in 1816. While in the confines of an article his clips serve, I think a fuller quote is even more interesting. (My emphasis added.)

“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.
As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood.”




Feeling down about the elections?  Me, too.  I don’t understand the “enthusiasm gap”.  I don’t understand the lack of urgency.  As much as the those holding their tea parties are afraid of where the Obama administration is leading the country, I am afraid of where it will go without him.  Really, doesn’t it keep you awake at night to think about Republicans taking back congress?  Not only was their entire platform the last two years simply “No”, they now vow to undo everything that they said “no” to!

I found the Rolling Stone article The Case For Obama to be a nice salve – and also offers a nice run down of everything those of us left of center should be proud of – and should be fighting to keep.

Buck up!  Vote!

Here is a link:

Here is a pdf: The Case for Obama – Rolling Stone

And here is a excerpt:

Less than halfway through his first term, Obama has compiled a remarkable track record. As president, he has rewritten America’s social contract to make health care accessible for all citizens. He has brought 100,000 troops home from war and forged a once-unthinkable consensus around the endgame for the Bush administration’s $3 trillion blunder in Iraq. He has secured sweeping financial reforms that elevate the rights of consumers over Wall Street bankers and give regulators powerful new tools to prevent another collapse. And most important of all, he has achieved all of this while moving boldly to ward off another Great Depression and put the country back on a halting path to recovery.

Along the way, Obama delivered record tax cuts to the middle class and slashed nearly $200 billion in corporate welfare — reinvesting that money to make college more accessible and Medicare more solvent. He single-handedly prevented the collapse of the Big Three automakers — saving more than 1 million jobs — and brought Big Tobacco, at last, under the yoke of federal regulation. Even in the face of congressional intransigence on climate change, he has fought to constrain carbon pollution by executive fiat and to invest $200 billion in clean energy — an initiative bigger than John F. Kennedy’s moonshot and one that’s on track to double America’s capacity to generate renewable energy by the end of Obama’s first term.

On the social front, he has improved pay parity for women and hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians. He has brought a measure of sanity to the drug war, reducing the sentencing disparity for crack cocaine while granting states wide latitude to experiment with marijuana laws. And he has installed two young, female justices on the Supreme Court, creating what Brinkley calls “an Obama imprint on the court for generations.”

What’s even more impressive about Obama’s accomplishments, historians say, is the fractious political coalition he had to marshal to victory. “He didn’t have the majority that LBJ had,” says Goodwin. Indeed, Johnson could count on 68 Democratic senators to pass Medicare, Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act. For his part, Franklin Roosevelt had the backing of 69 Senate Democrats when he passed Social Security in 1935. At its zenith, Obama’s governing coalition in the Senate comprised 57 Democrats, a socialist, a Republican turncoat — and Joe Lieberman.

In his quest for progress, Obama has also had to maneuver against an unrelenting head wind from the “Party of No” and its billionaire backers. “Obama is harassed as well as opposed,” says Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. “The crazy Republican right is now unfettered. You’ve got a Senate with no adult leadership. And Obama’s up against Rupert Murdoch, Dick Armey, the Koch brothers and the rest of the professional right.” Compared to the opposition faced by the most transformative Democratic presidents, adds Wilentz, “it’s a wholly different scale.”

Despite such obstacles, Obama has succeeded in forging a progressive legacy that, anchored by health care reform, puts him “into the same conversation with FDR and LBJ,” says Brinkley, “though those two accomplished more.” Goodwin, herself a former Johnson aide, likens the thrust of Obama’s social agenda to LBJ’s historic package of measures known as the Great Society. “What is comparable,” she says, “is the idea of using government to expand social and economic justice. That’s what the health care bill is about. That’s what Obama tried to do with the financial reforms. That’s what he’s doing with education. The Great Society was about using the collective energies of the nation to make life better for more people — and that’s what Obama has tried to do.”


From Wisconsin…

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Scoring Politics

I had one of life’s little synchronicities today. Driving to work and looking at all the political yard signs mixed in with all the sport teams flags and Halloween decorations got me to thinking about politics as sport. I thought about mowing a big “D” in my grass. Not really, but wouldn’t it be funny? Or blue lights on the house in November before switching over to green and red in December. Politics is sport and a festival. But, how far can you go down that route until all becomes a game? Maybe we are already there. It is about who wins and not about what will work. So it was synchronistic to read that Nicholas Kristof was thinking along the same lines. I really love this article:


October 6, 2010

Trifecta of Torment


We journalists tend to cover politics the way we cover sports:

Republicans are gaining yardage on their immigration play! The Tea Party is stealing second base! A bench-clearing brawl over health care! Look at the politicians and pundits mud-wrestle!

So let’s try an experiment: Let’s treat this midterm election as if it might actually profoundly shape the well-being of our country.

For starters, look at the Republican accusation that Democrats are killing jobs while leaving the United States deeply indebted. “Democrats continue to double-down on their job-killing policies,” the Republicans say in their Pledge to America. Rick Scott, the Republican running for governor in Florida, complains that his Democratic opponent “backed the failed stimulus bill, which created debt, not jobs.”

The Republicans start with a fair point: Democrats haven’t delivered what they promised. The unemployment rate rose from 7.7 percent when President Obama took office to more than 10 percent and was still 9.6 percent at last count in August. The Democrats had predicted that unemployment would fall to about 7 percent by now. That was flat wrong.

Chalk one up for the Republicans.

But would they have done better? The Republicans opposed the stimulus package, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it created between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

In other words, under Republican leadership, we would have at least an additional 1.4 million people out of work. As, the indispensable truth squad Web site puts it: “It’s just false to say that the stimulus created ‘no jobs.’ ”

Remember that in the winter of 2008-9, there was talk about another Great Depression. Even the House Republican leader, John Boehner, spoke of the economy being “on the brink.” Now confidence is returning, and the United States has officially moved from recession to (agonizingly slow) recovery.

Some Republicans have other jobs proposals that would create modest numbers of jobs — but many fewer than the stimulus did. Mr. Boehner proposed what he called a job creation plan, but the Economic Policy Institute (which is nonpartisan but admittedly leans Democratic) estimated that it would lead to a net reduction of more than one million jobs.

So, on jobs, the Democrats did poorly, but by most independent accounts, far better than the Republicans would have. Chalk one up for the Democrats.

Then there’s the national debt. The Republicans say, correctly, that Mr. Obama aggravated the debt with the stimulus bill. The latest Congressional Budget Office estimate is that the bill will worsen the deficit by $814 billion over a decade.

But as Andrew Romano, a senior writer for Newsweek, noted in an excellent blog post that helped inspire this column, the Republicans propose other actions that worsen the fiscal situation even more. For starters, the Republicans favor almost $700 billion in extended tax cuts for the most affluent Americans. The Democratic leadership opposes them.

In addition, the Republicans call for repealing the health care reform. The Congressional Budget Office suggests that repealing certain provisions of that act would mean an increase in deficits of about $455 billion. On the other hand, keeping health reform will trim the deficits by more than $170 billion between now and 2020, the C.B.O. says.

There are many other elements in play, but put these big ones together and what do you get, on a comparative basis? The Democrats worsen the deficits by a net of about $640 billion, while Republicans worsen them by some $1.1 trillion — almost twice as much.

Chalk up another one for the Democrats.

There’s a third issue in dispute: which party’s policies are more in keeping with our national values? Republicans suggest that excluding the wealthiest Americans from tax cuts reflects an unpatriotic and divisive effort to foment a class war.

But hold on. There’s a fallacy there. Mr. Obama’s plan wouldn’t actually exclude the wealthiest Americans from tax cuts. It would cut billionaires’ taxes — but only for their first $250,000 in income.

The richest 0.1 percent of Americans (who earn an average of $8.4 million) would get an average tax cut of more than $61,000 under Mr. Obama’s proposal, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Under the Republican proposal, they would get an average tax cut of more than $370,000, the center says.

Thus, the Republican tax cut would lead to an even more gargantuan gap between rich and poor. As Warren Buffett has said: “There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

I grant that estimates about jobs and revenue are uncertain. But they are not meaningless, and the strong implication is that Republican rule would lead to the Trifecta of Torment: higher unemployment, worse deficits and greater inequity.

That might be more important to ponder this fall than the ups and downs of the mud-wrestling competitions.


The Second Coming of Williams Jennings Bryant…

I didn’t watch Glenn Beck’s rally. There are just too many things to do in my life to give time or credence to such outlandish craziness. This morning I have read an account and heard some clips. It is disgusting. Returning this country to God? Really? Have these people ever read the constitution or taken a history class? This is the very thing that the founders were trying to avoid. This is not a Christian nation. It is a nation of laws. The laws of the this nation allow people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to get up in front of hundreds of thousands of people and fill out their fantasies to be evangelical preachers if they wish. It is the beauty of the idea of free speech. It is also the frustrating part when two people in search of personal power and glory, fame or money deliver such hateful rhetoric wrapped up in love o f country. It is disheartening to see how many people buy into this dog and pony show.

Like Becky Benson. She was quoted in the Times as saying, “we believe in Jesus Christ,” and Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare. “You cannot sit and expect someone to hand out to you,” she said. “You don’t spend your way out of debt.” Uh, what book and chapter of the bible covered economic stimulus packages? Man, I didn’t know that Jesus was an anti-Keynesian! Seriously, has Ms. Benson read the New Testament? What I remember was Jesus saying “suffer the little children unto me”, “turn the other cheek” and “sell all your worldly goods and follow me”. There is all that stuff about giving the shirt of your back to the one who needs it. There is that line about how hard it would be for the wealthy man to get into heaven. Does any of that add up to the Republican/Tea Party notion of limited government and every man for himself? If you are looking to get a country in line with biblical principals you would probably best be served by looking at communal societies.

I am an agnostic. I find all this mixing of church and state offensive. More than offensive – dangerous. If Glenn wants to be a preacher and hold tent revivals, super. But you can’t rail against the government and say the country needs to get back to god. Sorry, government has nothing to do with god.


Oh My God! We are an atheist nation!!!

My coworker who is originally from a European country, asked me what was wrong with people. She couldn’t understand why there was so much news coverage about Obama being a Muslim. She asked me if people in this country were crazy. This is ironic as her country’s heritage includes a little thing called the inquisition.

Nevertheless, I do wonder if people have simply gone mad. It is simply idiotic to question if Obama is a Muslim. There are simply no facts to support the question, but most importantly there is no reason to even ask BECAUSE IT DOESN’T MATTER!

Not to me personally (although it doesn’t) – but to the “Founding Fathers” that the people posing such lunacy are self-purported to revere.

Can we just mention Article VI?

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

This comes before Freedom of Religion and Speech and even the Right to Bear Arms. This is at the very CORE of our foundation.

So all the talking heads, newscasters and commentators – respectable and otherwise – running long stories and postulating over the significance of the president’s faith are not reporting news. They are not being patriotic. They are not loving this country “so much” with tears in their eyes. They are a fear mongering. They are rousing up the rabble. They are dealing in slander and bordering on treasonous notions.

America is not a Christian Nation. Anyone that comes on TV and says so is ill-informed and/or a liar. This nation was founded on the very notion that government was government and religion was religion and NEVER should the twain meet. Look around the world, see what mixing the two can do. The very thing that we are so afraid of is the very thing that we are inviting when we start talking about God in the same breath as law.

This is a nation of law. Our government is an atheist. The government doesn’t believe in any god. The people in the government? They can believe whatever the hell want.


Freedom of Religion

Ok, Olbermann’s rant is not as nuanced as Mayor Bloomberg’s speech and he certainly doesn’t have the moderate credibility of the Mayor. The Daily Show coverage is wonderful – humor and satire is powerful.

But, bottom line is this. Build the damn thing! Jesus!

Or, well, maybe Alla?  See, in this country you can use any religious or mythological figure as an exclamation if you want.  Yes, you might offend someone, but you have that RIGHT – and that right can actually lead to intellectual conversations and understanding of others.


Isn’t that want this was suppose to be about?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

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