Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Truth About President Obama

On Wednesday, President Obama was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was a weird interview, which started fairly jovially and ended with the president looking annoyed at Stewart's line of questioning, with the host calling the president timid in his policies in spite of the promise of audacity which he used as a backdrop for his campaign.

Just over a week earlier, the always fiery David Michael Green had already explained why the president's performance fell so egregiously short of the high expectations progressives had two years ago:
Perhaps a better explanation for the failure of Obama and his ilk to fight hard for the country’s welfare and for progressive values is that he is no progressive at all. I’ve been arguing that for a long time, and he is certainly helping to reaffirm that notion right now by appealing a federal court decision ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a policy which he claims to oppose. But, in fact, the Obama ideology ship sailed a long time ago. He previously also went to court defending the Defense of Marriage Act. He bailed out Wall Street a hundred pennies on the dollar, and demanded nothing of them in return. He has tripled the US presence in Afghanistan, and is bombing the snot out of Pakistan. He has not closed Guantánamo, and has an even worse record on civil liberties than Bush and Cheney did. His health care bill is a total gift to insurance corporations, and now we’ve just learned from Tom Daschle that the president had never considered the public option at all, having cut a deal with those corporations in advance promising that there would be no such component in the legislation. And so on, and so on. Stupid voters make the erroneous assumption that politicians like Bill Clinton are liberal because they are Democrats, and because the right and the media keep telling them that these guys are liberals. Most of the country has now done the same for Obama, but of course the opposite is true. So maybe the explanation for his failed presidency is simply that he has adopted the same regressive policies that have been killing the country for three decades now.

But, wait! Green has another theory about the president's failure, and it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he may be right.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Self Portrait

Enjoy, for a good weekend.

(Steps Ahead: Michael Brecker - tenor sax; Mike Mainieri - vibraphone; Chuck Loeb - guitar; Victor Bailey - bass; Peter Erskine - drums. Umbria Jazz Festival, Perugia, Italia, July 13th, 1985)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ken Buck, Bad for the Brain, Bad for the World

You know how people (well, OK, not people, religious people) say that homosexuality is a choice? I always considered it really stupid argument. So, to me, it's particularly offensive and dangerous when a person who is running to represent us, like the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Colorado, Ken Buck, takes the position that homosexuality is a choice. Adultery (if you believe in such a construct) is a choice. Drinking, as opposed to abstaining, is (to a large degree) a choice. But sex? Really, in the 21st century there are still people who believe that sex is driven by choice?

It's a stupid argument for me, because I never chose to like women. I was attracted to girls since I was a boy and never did it cross my mind that I might, one day, choose to be with men (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course). I think this probably goes for the overwhelming majority of human beings. Truly, if my life depended on it and I had to tell you the day I "chose" to like girls, I'd have to lie and make up a date. Because, in all honesty, that is one answer I don't have to give. I like girls, period.

Really, then, what religious people are asking us to believe is that it would be becoming, for our gay and lesbian (and bisexual) brothers and sisters, to give up their natural (god-given?) sexual orientation to please a god that chose to make them different... to do what exactly? To tease them? To make an example of them. Or, worse, these people really believe that sexual orientation is not a natural feature but a preference.

The way to silence these selfish and dangerous individuals, if they were able to stop and think and shut their gob in humility, would be to ask them to pinpoint, at least to the month and year, the time they choose to like girls and not boys, or viceversa. The usual argument from them, at this point, is that bestiality and pedofilia are also natural, so should we indulge people with such proclivities? That is usually the moment I have to bite my tongue until it bleeds, count to 100, and then say--as politely as possible under the circumstances: "Don't you think that, perhaps, what consenting adult do is different from what an adult imposes on a five year-old? Also, there are some really good laws against Uncle Timmy abusing his little niece Amanda." If that logic does not break trough their concrete brains, then I have to walk away in a hurry because my next instinct would be to punch them. And I am against using force as a mean to show others the errors of their ways.

To add insult to injury, these self-declared Christians and their elected representatives tell us that their religion is different because it's a loving religion, and because we can all choose to have a personal relationship with their god, and that their goal is not to establish a theocracy, unlike--say--Islam. Of course, it wouldn't be a theocracy. It would just be a place where gays and lesbians would not be able to serve openly in the military, one where they would not be able to get married like everybody else (unless we wanted people to go down the slippery slope of marrying donkeys), one where they could not adopt, or even one where they should not be able to teach the children of straight folks. Again, a big difference from a theocracy, why can't you see it? And these people have the gall to call themselves, their god and their religion "loving."

I still believe that there is hope for humans, but it pains me that it takes so long to win even fights with a certain outcome, so that most people won't be alive to reap the fruits of the seeds of reason they sowed. But the fight is worth fighting and it start with voting, to ensure that people like Ken Buck do not get the opportunity to advance their evil, discriminatory beliefs.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

For Your Churchey Friends

From one of the greatest bands in history, with love.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The "Dangers" of Going The Way of Europe

Over at The Constructive Curmudgeon, Douglas Groothuis warns his readers that the upcoming mid-terms are going to be "an election of consequence." If, says Groothuis, Republicans don't make substantial gains, the American Experiment could be lost to Obama's statism, the growth of the federal government, outrageous deficits, an imperial presidency, and--shake in your boots--America may go the way of Europe.

Groothuis and us, we must be living in different worlds, because--the last I checked--the outrageous deficits Groothuis speaks of where largely inherited from the Bush presidency, as noted by David Michael Green, and so was the imperial presidency; not to mention the fact that conservatives tend to forget that massive deficit expansion that took place under their idol, Ronald Reagan. But that's okay, we expect selective memory from Republicans, that's what they do best.

But perhaps the greatest irony is that we are supposed to fear going the way of Europe, just when Alternet released an interviewed by Thomas McNally with Thomas Geoghegan, author of Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?. Go read the interview and see for yourself why we should be so afraid of going the Europe's way. Perhaps it's because
Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all. And even as the Germans outsell the United States, they manage to take six weeks of vacation every year. They're beating us with one hand tied behind their back.

Or maybe we should fear going the way of Europe because "European nations spend far less than the United States for universal healthcare rated by the World Health Organization as the best in the world" and are way ahead of the United States in creating and using renewable energy technology and in environmental protection laws.

I wasn't born here. I came by choice. I thought this was the place to be, the land of opportunity, one that rewarded initiative over inherited wealth and status. I have to reconsider.

American health care has never been a model for the world to imitate, but it has gotten even worse than it was when I arrived, more unfair.

Politics have deteriorated into the circus that we see today, in which Tea-Party clowns like Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle are regarded as serious contenders, Sarah Palin is considered a political leader and the Chamber of Commerce is a money-laundering organization for foreign entities that seek to more easily influence the political process than they could before. We have gone through the impeachment of one president whose crime was lying about getting "serviced" in the White House, while another who declared an illegal and criminal war on a nation that had not harmed us served his entire two terms out without so much as a congressional inquiry, perhaps because the Republican Congress was so busy rubberstamping everything that they were too busy wondering why four different justifications, none valid, were given for the invasion of Iraq.

Talking about Congress, the American Congress is one of the most corrupt in the Western world. I am not talking about bribes or kickbacks. I am talking about the system of election funding that induces "public servants" to act in the best interest of their corporate sponsors. A perverse system in which money equates free speech, meaning that you and I are crushed before the race starts. One that rewards ignoring the creation of well-paying jobs, fair living conditions, the protection and preservation of the Commons, equal access to justice for all, an educational system where everybody has a shot. A system that rewards focusing energy and effort on protecting the sanctity of the unborn while the living rot, on ensuring that the unconstitutional discrimination against gays continues, on forcing rape and incest victims to carry the fruit of violence to term, on denying science, why, even on denying that the President was born a U.S. citizen.

Sixty-five years ago the United States saved the world. Now they are incapable of saving themselves from the spiral of greed and dishonesty that has all but destroyed the America dream. This once great nation is becoming a Banana Republic, populated by people too ignorant, misled and apathetic to notice that their elected "representatives" have been pulling the wool over their eyes (and ears and mouths) for at least 30 years.

Remember this, since I arrived less than 20 years ago, the share of the nation's income that goes to the top 1% of earners has grown, since I arrived in 1992, from just over 40% to almost 65%, while at the same time it has dropped for the bottom 90% of earners from 30% to just over 10%.

Could it be that the thing the world should fear is going the way of America, the Republican-backed Corporate America version that Douglas Groothuis is so eager to expand?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Religion's Contribution to Science

Here's a pretty definitive argument to silence believers when it comes to their criticism of science and its inability to answer the mysteries of life, the universe and everything:

Name one factual, falsifiable, and essential contribution made by religion, any religion, to the understanding of nature and the development of life and the universe.

I thought so. Or, surprise me.

Tea Partiers Enabled The Mess We're In, And Now They Wanna Solve It?

[Knocking on tea-partier's skull] "Hello? Hello? Anybody in? Didn't think so."

Tea Partiers, says Prof. David Michael Green, were the great enablers of the mess we are in. And they are the one bitching the loudest. And now? Oh yeah, they want your vote. So they can fix the mess they helped create? Jabberwocky.

Real Republicans

Ken Buck, Colorado.

Carly Fiorina, California.

Democrats are lame, but Republicans are positively dangerous.

The worst that can happen is that you will find some Democrats, in some districts, who are as bad as the Republican candidate. But, as a rule, Republicans are far worse for regular folks (a.k.a. non-wealthy, non-millionaires.)

No brainer, no choice. Vote Democrat or suffer (more).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Curing Homosexuality

These people who advocate that gays can be cured of their homosexuality, what do you call them... ah, yes believers. I wonder about them. There is more evidence that homosexuality is not a choice (and even if it were a choice, so what?) than there is for the Universe being created by an all-loving, perfect, all-knowing (and therefore not free), all-caring god. I think we need more classes to cure religious people than ones to cure gays. Delusion being more dangerous than sexual preference, i.e.

On a related note, watch this segment from last night's Rachel Maddow Show.

Why anyone would vote for people like these is beyond me. It's quite disgusting when it's just people like the ones depicted in Maddow's segment who decry Sharia Law, when they themselves want to impose the Christian equivalent of it. I'll have none of it, will you?

Poll Respondents

I am no die-hard fan of President Obama, but I know the difference between a disappointment and a complete failure made possible by evil and idiocy. Unlike 41% of the CNN poll shown above.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Leprechauns, Religions and Science

Jerry Coyne, in USA Today, explains why science and religion are incompatible, and why religions deserves no more concessions from science than leprechauns do.

Class Warfare Hypocrisy

Interesting article on class warfare. The real one, that is.

Beware of those who accuse governments that try to bring relief to the poor and huddles masses as statists, while hailing those whose intent is to crush the same masses into servitude and submission as paladins of freedom.

Monday, October 04, 2010

This Is One Fucked Up Country

If you want proof that this is one really fucked up country, and that some of the people who inhabit it are indefensible morons, all you have to do is ready the following two articles from Think Progress:

National Review Writers Defend County Whose Subscription-Only Firefighters Watched Home Burn Down.
All I have to say is: If we have to subscribe to firefighting services, what on earth are we paying taxes for: corporate welfare and wars? In that case, I might add, sign me in for opt-in corporate welfare and opt-in military. I loath the former, and on the latter you don't even want to get me started.

The second article should be all you ever need to convince your Republican, Libertarian and teabagging friends that voting Republican is, in essence, like kissing your money, jobs, and freedom away. It describes the fact that Mike Pence, a contender for the 2012 Republican nomination for the presidency, believes that the way to fix the economy is to keep gays from marrying.

Just so we're clear, the problem is not that there are people who promote stupid ideas, such as that you should opt-in for firefighting services or that preventing gays from marrying is as much of a national priority as fixing the economy. The problem is that there is quite a large number of people who vote for candidates who promote those ideas. In any country that was not a Banana Republic, such candidates would be laughed out of debates, and kicked out of political parties.

It's getting increasingly harder to feel any pride for being Americans.
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