Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Conservative Mind - Where Ugly is Beautiful


It's official. I have become a hater. I've really tried not to let it happen. I've watched the "other side" become meaner and meaner as the decades have gone on. I thought the Republicans couldn't get any more venal and self-serving after impeaching Bill Clinton but I was wrong. That was child's play. They were only cutting their teeth on Clinton, practicing for their Academy Award-winning role as Obama loathers. Yes, they called Bill terrible names and published the sordid details of his sex life on the internet for all the world to see (for the good of the country, you know....yeah). But, to be fair, Clinton knew they were after him and gave them the ammunition to shoot him with so although I thought it was terrible for America, what they did, he had to take some of the blame.

So, then we had eight years of Bush and those oh-so-fiscally-prudent Republicans spent money like it was going out of style. Wars, entitlements, Wall Street, tax cuts - deficits be damned! And by the time it was over, the economy was in shambles and we had become a nation that took its principles and threw them out the window like so many dirty diapers. Gleefully, we went to war in Iraq for no reason, although we were already at war in Afghanistan. I guess we just wanted to get back at Muslims after 911 no matter whether they were the right ones or not. We tortured and imprisoned whomever we pleased without bringing charges. Who worries about a little thing like evidence - 911! And, of course, we did all this with our volunteer army because we didn't have the guts to reinstate the draft and make everyone contribute to the cause of "keeping America safe". We sent the same guys (incidentally, when a Hoosier says guys, it is genderless) back over and over again. Big surprise that they are committing suicide in record numbers after 5, 6, 7 tours in a war zone and we only just now passed a tiny bit of funding to try to help....and even that was damned hard to get through our dysfunctional Congress.

As we usually do, we elected a Democrat, Barack Obama, to put our house back in order....and he has. But who could have foreseen the kind of destructive, hateful, vicious tear the Republicans would go on in response to a black president. It's been as if they believed all monitors were off their words and their behavior. "Wag the dog" was bad enough with Clinton, the implication being that he was too caught up in sexual peccadilloes to mind the country but with Obama, they just come right out and say it: traitor...socialist....communist....Muslim...non-American...America hater...Hitler.  There's is nothing they can think up that is too bad to call this president, or his wife, nothing. They are like a car with the gas pedal stuck and no brakes....full speed ahead. "Hey," says Rudy to King of the Birthers, Donald Trump, "listen to this...I can up the ante on that!"

Vacations, pointing, words used or not used, Michelle encouraging school kids to exercise and eat healthier, tan suits, going or not going to funerals, golfing.....nothing is too mundane (and no matter how many presidents have done the same) to elicit outrage from the right.

They lie with impunity. Rudy says Obama has never said America is exceptional...except, yes, he has. There is video evidence if anyone cares to look and listen but of course, they don't. They just go right on, with Fox News and the poisonous right-wing web sites parroting the accusations...and even doubling down on them. For the most part, Republican politicians sit on their hands or shrug as if to say, "well, maybe".

Their most recent meme is that Obama has done "nothing" about ISIS. What a feckless president he is. Now the King of Jordan, there is a president! Forget that Jordan is following US! America is the major contributor of planes, money, bombs, intelligence, drones, helicopters and missiles in the war against ISIS. Remind Republicans of that and they just ignore you and repeat that he has done nothing or even if he has done a little something, he's done it using the wrong words, by God! They so wish we had a strong leader like Putin. Or, yeah, BiBi Netanyahu....that's their latest hero, to the point of inviting him to speak to a joint session of Congress without conferring with our own president, a disrespectful gesture never done before, because it's all about sidetracking the diplomatic talks with Iran regarding their nuclear weapons program, which will end in March in any case, but they can't wait that long because, geez, what if Obama pulled it off! BiBi is, of course, up for re-election soon so it isn't just about Iran but the Republicans mucking around in another country's choice of leaders....because, you know, screwing up our own elections isn't enough.

So I have watched my country getting farther and farther off the path of what I always thought America stood for. I've watched hatefulness and ignorance take over an entire party. I've watched them with their fiscal cliffs and sequesters and government shutdowns and threatened defaults and credit downgrades and filibusters. I've watched them throw cheap little hissy fits as their supporters egged them on. I thought they might step up and try to govern when they won in 2014 but so far, we've gotten more of the same. This Friday at midnight, the Department of Homeland Security will run out of money if Republicans can't find a way to fund it. Seriously, with terrorist threats around every corner, they are going to let the Department of Homeland Security go broke? Really?

I've watched, heart-broken, as we've gotten more and more vicious. Muslims? Nuke'em! Young refugees? Scare'em first, then send'em home? Kids who came here as children, went to school here, know no other country and are contributing to this one? Deport'em. Unions? Bust'em! Uninsured Americans? Tough shit! Minimum wage workers who can't afford to feed their families? Who cares? Young black males getting shot and/or incarcerated in record numbers. Ah, they're thugs, it's what they deserve.

Take science out of schools and put God back in. Don't let gays get married. Don't let minority and poor people vote. Don't let women control their own health and families. Don't let towns and landowners control their own destinies. No, you can't ban fracking, no you can't refuse to let oil companies pour poisons in your rivers, no you can't deny a pipeline going through your property. Apaches, we know we gave you that land but you know what, we're re-taking it and giving it to the mining companies.

I used to enjoy the back and forth of debating with my conservative friends but no more. It's like debating with someone in an alternate universe - an alternate universe where up is down and good is bad and ugly is beautiful.



Monday, February 16, 2015

What Does Your God Expect?


Most people who read my writing know that I consider myself an agnostic in that I neither confirm nor deny that there is a Creator and if so, whether he/she/it cares about us on a personal level. The farther NASA's telescopes take us into the vastness of outer space, the more difficult it becomes to think we are as important as we like to believe. If there is a Supreme Being, does s/he really take note of a single sparrow falling? Or even of the entire sparrow species disappearing? Is he (which term I'll use from now on for the sake of convenience and since almost all religions seem to agree that this Intelligence must certainly be male) even concerned with the whole planet, for that matter?

I wonder about these questions quite often and sometimes I try to talk to religious people about them but they usually won't deign to discuss them with me. Maybe they don't have satisfying answers either and that's where faith comes in.

But faith? Christians believe they have true faith and so do all the others but is your faith simply a product of the circumstances of your birth? If you had been born into a Sikh family in India and taught from the time you were born that the Sikh faith is the one true one, wouldn't you believe that just as sincerely as you believe in Christianity now? Do Christians think they would have gone against the grain and become Christians even if they were taught absolutely nothing about that religion? And when I say Christians, I'm not picking on just them, I mean every member of every religion.

All religions believe in miracles and it does seem as if what appear to be miracles do happen from time to time but why? How does God choose who is to be honored with a miracle? I often see prayer requests on Facebook and I usually send positive thoughts that way, in case it helps. But does it? Does the number of prayers you get make a difference? Doesn't that make it a popularity contest? We all vote on the contestant we want to recover from leukemia?  Surely, that can't be right. Sometimes, miracles even seem to happen to animals - when a baby buffalo is saved from the crocodile in the nick of time. Why did god decide to intervene in that particular instance and not in thousands of others?

Between them, Muslims and Christians make up over half of all the earth's people who claim to be religious. I would guess they are also the two most violent and insistent that others adopt their own beliefs. Perhaps there are some just as bloodthirsty but we don't hear about them because they are too small to make much of an impact on the world.

Christians and Muslims have been warring with each other (and warring among themselves) for as long as they have existed. Unfortunately, since they are both rooted in the Middle East, these wars often involve territory both sides consider their Holy Land. From the Crusades until the present day, Christians and Muslims have looked upon each other as opponents and enemies.

But it's even worse than that. Different denominations within each religion hate each other as well. Sunnis versus Shia....Catholics versus Protestants. People of faith want to believe that religion is a force for good but just as often, it has been a force for cruelty and death.

It's not what people believe that is the heart of the problem, it's what they've convinced themselves their god expects them to do about those beliefs that send things spinning out of control. Your god may tell you that homosexuality is an abomination or infidels are evil or the idea of an infallible Pope is nonsense but does he expect you, personally, to try to right these wrongs? Unfortunately, many religious people do think that. It's not enough that you live a good Christian or Muslim life by your religion's standards but you must also be your brother's keeper - or sender-to-hell, as the case may be.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Conservatives, Join the Rest of Us in Reality!

Do conservatives not understand what we are doing in Iraq and Syria? Are they unaware that we are spending $7.5 million per day to fight ISIS (and that it sounds as if we are preparing to up the ante considerably). Do they not realize that US/Coalition Forces have hit ISIS targets over 1000 times? Has it escaped their notice that the U.S. is the leader in the war against ISIS? Are they oblivious to the fact that while 40 nations contribute in some way to the fight against radical Islam, America is far and away the biggest provider of money, men, material and planning?

I keep reading these memes on Facebook from conservatives about how America just won't help those poor countries being overtaken by ISIS because, well, because our president is a coward...or maybe he's secretly a Muslim sympathizer in league with the extremists. Yeah, that could be it.

Are you fucking kidding me? Where is that coming from? Is that what Fox News tells you or the right-wing blogs? Because it is so totally and stupidly wrong that I literally have to catch my breath when I read such drivel.

If you want to be upset with someone who isn't committed to this fight, be upset with your own chickenshit congress people who haven't even found it within themselves to so much as debate what should be done and put their butts on the line by taking a vote.

No, first they were on vacation when all this began and you certainly wouldn't expect them to cut their vacation short as exhausted as I'm sure they were from all the days they worked in 2014. (The House's calendar showed they would work 113 days but I don't think it amounted to that many in the end).

Our current engagement against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is being fought under the authorization Congress gave Bush to go to Iraq after 911. It is long out-of-date and it is doubtful that it even provides the legal authority the president needs to do what he's doing. But, OH, MY GOD, imagine if he wasn't doing it? What would they be saying then?

Congress could remedy all this at any time, of course. They could give Obama a new expanded authorization or they could shrink it if that's what they feel is called for.

But, instead, they want to scream and shout and moan and groan and call everything he does wrong while leaving it completely up to his discretion to make the decisions even though they say they don't trust him.

And, of course, their biggest bitch is semantic. They don't care so much about the actual physical costs of what we're doing, they care that Obama doesn't call ISIS by the name they want him to use, which is Radical Islam.

Because as a world leader, he's trying to be careful. He doesn't want to tar an entire religion with one brush because of what a minority of extremists perpetrate, just as Christians would not want their entire faith to be lumped under one heading because of acts by radical Christians.

And remember that some of the Coalition countries are Muslims themselves...and the countries we are fighting ISIS in are also Muslim. The pilot who was just burned to death by ISIS was Muslim, for God's sake....and the man we think organized his burning was born a white English Christian.

What Obama understands is that there is no one-size-fits-all here.

So, you know, conservatives who don't believe Obama's America is helping fight ISIS, maybe you ought to try reading from sources that report actual facts for a change.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The State of Our Union is.......


The State of our Union is....pathetic. I'm talking about the union that is represented by us...you and me. President Obama is wrong. We are a collection of red states and blue states, blacks and whites, gays and straights, Christians and non-Christians, liberals and conservatives. We aren't all united in this endeavor, America, anymore.

And Obama himself, who I think truly wants to believe what he's saying, is a perfect example of just how divided we now are. I had someone tell me on on Facebook just a few days ago. "He's not my president. He wasn't born here and he isn't legally the president. He should be in prison." And that is not an uncommon theme on the right-leaning side of America.

So, this is what our democracy has devolved to. He's not my president because I refuse to accept the will of the voters who elected him. If I don't get my way every time, then I will simply refuse to honor the outcome.

Take nullification, for example. Mike Huckabee, possible Republican presidential aspirant, recently floated the idea that even if the Supreme Court outlaws gay marriage bans throughout the U.S., states don't necessarily have to follow that decision. Ultra-conservative sheriff's have declared that they will refuse to enforce gun laws and in fact, will arrest and charge federal agents who try to do so. Different areas of the country have made every possible effort to shoehorn Christianity into our schools in place of science. Some of them have even tried to declare Christianity their official state religion, despite our Founding Father's strongly held belief that the government must be neutral on matters of faith.

 So, despite the right being the side that howls about the sanctity of the constitution, they have declared war on that document if it means being ordered to do something they don't want to do. I guess it boils down to all of us getting to decide for ourselves which laws we want to follow and which ones we don't....and that isn't a government, it's anarchy.

In the ultimate expression of nullification, some Americans want to secede from the union and start their own new, proudly red, country. Let's call it the nation of Reagan as one proponent of secession wants to do. In Reagan there would be no abortions but lots of guns. There would be no gay marriages but lots of....gee, I can't think of anything they're for but more guns. Gays, immigrants, Muslims, atheists, African-Americans, independent minded women, union workers and poor people - leave Reagan because we don't want your kind here. Seems as if it would be a rather sparsely populated country, doesn't it? But not to worry - with no abortions or contraception, I'm sure the population would soon boom with good white Christian conservative residents.

In Reagan, there would be no unions and no taxes. If a Reaganite suffers from a catastrophe, they'd better be prepared to pack their bags and head for the familiar old U.S, because, of course, there are no assistance programs in their new country. It's Every-Man-For-Himself-Land.

We have become a collection of disparate factions, all pretty much hating one another, each with our own go-to set of media sites that parrot back to us what we want to hear.

And what are liberal attitudes toward all this division and dislike and dysfunction? I can only speak for myself but where once I would have tried to cajole, argue and convince the other side that we all need to work together for the sake of America, I find myself admitting defeat. I'm more than tired of it all. I'm ready to tell them, "just go already...secede....take your hate with you and the rest us will continue with the business of America....all of us together....all the people you cast aside. And may the best country win."

Saturday, January 17, 2015


   It does seem as if ignorance has become a valid point of view in the America of the 21st century. I don't mean the ignorance of the uneducated or unintelligent. I mean regular everyday Americans...bright people, many of them. Graduates of at least high school and more often, products of some type of higher learning. People who operate, or at least work for, successful businesses.

These are people who are ignorant by choice, people who will go to tortured lengths to cling to their ignorance in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

You say that the vast majority of scientists believe in climate change? Over 90 percent? Well, don't you know, they are all paid off by the opposition. Who is the opposition, you ask? Who would pay what would have to be billions upon billions of dollars to get scientists across the world to lie? And what would these people receive in return for their enormous investment? Who benefits from saying that climate change exists when it doesn't? No climate change denier has yet been able to tell me.

We do know who benefits if climate change is ignored. The current energy giants who have a vested interest in keeping our focus on fossil fuels rather than alternate energy sources. Aren't they the ones who are more likely to be lying?

And what does it say about our faith in humanity if we prefer to believe that most scientists are motivated by greed rather than a thirst for knowledge...this, although we know that scientists through the centuries have been excommunicated, tortured and killed for insisting on truth their leaders didn't want to hear.

To the deliberately ignorant, statistics and even empirical proof is so much nonsense. We embarked on an economic experiment under Ronald Reagan 40 years ago - trickle-down economics. It posited that if we simply gave our wealth to the rich, jobs and prosperity would trickle down to the rest of us. The working class would actually be better off without unions because the overflow from the elites would automatically raise our boats too. Why pay union dues when we could have better wages and benefits for free?

Trickle-down economics stated that we could give away our income by means of lower taxes but our national income wouldn't go down, it would go up! Two minus two no longer equals zero, we were told, it actually equals nine! Wow....cool, huh?

Except it wasn't true and has never been true. Four decades of experience and evidence later, we know for sure it isn't true although we are still bound by those bogus claims because we have one political party and the people who vote for them who want so badly to believe.

We have lately had a plethora of our political representatives say, "I am not a scientist". Normally, you'd think, "well, great, they're finally going to recommend that we put our faith in those who are," but nope, what they mean is, they are not scientists but we should trust them on issues dealing with history and science and women's reproductive systems rather than actual scientists and doctors and historians.

Sadly, much of the misinformation disseminated by the non-scientist true believers is rooted in religion. The earth is 6,000 years old. Men and dinosaurs walked the planet together. Women rarely get pregnant from rape. I.U.D's cause abortion. Our Founding Fathers intended America to be a Christian nation. Slavery wasn't really all that bad for black people. Somehow, all this is what they get from their Bible. That poor book has been used to promote every kind of theory under the sun....often theories that completely contradict one another.

The election of our first African-American presidents seems to have exacerbated the amount of voluntary ignorance in the country today because, of course, ignorance and conspiracy and paranoia usually walk hand in hand.

When people post some of the things they do on Facebook - that Obama isn't an American, that he isn't a Christian (and if he is, he is the most virulent Bill Ayres kind of Christian - take your pick), that there are student i.d.'s floating around the internet that prove he was a foreign student if he even attended college here at all (which we don't know for sure because he's had his records sealed!), that he has packed his administration with followers of Islam, that's he's gone around the world apologizing for America, that he either refuses to wear an American flag pin or he wears it upside down as a gesture of contempt, that he doesn't salute the flag....Geez, I could go on forever....I ask them where they are getting their information and it is invariably websites like Barack Obama's Dead Fly or Red State or Wing-Nuts 'r' Us (as well as Fox News, of course), all of which they believe are more legitimate than the Christian Science Monitor or CNN or the New York Times.

I ask them if they have a clue how many hundreds and thousands of people would have to be in on such a conspiracy in order for it to happen.

I ask them when they think all their fears are going to come to fruition - the FEMA camps and the Death Squads and the confiscation of their guns - I mean, its been six years and Obama only has a couple left to bring his nefarious plot to destroy America to completion.

"Don't you know," they say, "he's going to suspend the 22nd Amendment and run again." And they don't quite say it but I know they're implying that stupid, brainwashed sheeple like me will fall for it. (Google it, if you don't believe me).

I ask them if they will be willing to admit they are wrong if Obama leaves when he is supposed to and none of their phobic worries have come to pass? They brush me off. Even without Obama, the agenda has been set in motion and will continue unless vigilant Americans like them can wrest it to a stop.

Because facts aren't really facts anymore, they are simply opinions that back up whatever you choose to believe.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Path That Leads Nowhere

     Yes, I understand that more and more of us are beginning to feel this way in light of all the terrorist activity in the last many years. The sheer brutality of the radical Muslims who are perpetrating the bombings and the beheadings and burnings makes it difficult not to want to respond in kind. It is so much easier to simply lump all Muslims in one big basket and kill them all...or at the very least, deport them all or refuse to allow any more in to the U.S. or forbid them to build any mosques in our country....or damn, there ought to be something we can do to show our contempt for Islam and every damn freakin' member of that unholy so-called religion!

Except we'd be wrong to do that. Christians right here in good old America have in the past....and actually, not so distant past...performed some pretty horrendous acts. Start back with the genocide of Native Americans and the slavery of black people and the terrible way we treated the Chinese who built our railroads. Think of the segregation and the lynchings and putting Japanese in detention camps and the awful conditions under which we forced migrant workers and their children to labor and live. Think of our discriminatory and cruel treatment of gays. Call Abu Ghraib to mind and the just released torture report and the forced feedings at Guantanamo.

One of Bible's most oft-quoted sayings is: "let he who is without sin cast the first stone". But that's the problem isn't it? I wasn't around for most of what I mentioned above and I certainly didn't approve of the things I was around for even if they were done in my name. I don't deserve to have any stones cast at me, do I, although I am a member of the same race and religion and nation that did them. I'm not responsible for everything that any white person, Christian or American has ever done, am I?

But, essentially, that's what some of us are doing with Muslims.

Unfortunately, the most radical and vicious members of any group will get the most attention, especially when they perform spectacular feats of terrorism like 911 or this latest one in Paris. Most African-Americans don't want to kill cops and most cops don't want to kill African Americans. Most Palestinians don't want to kill Jews and most Jews don't want to kill Palestinians....and most Muslims don't want to kill Christians although the worst among them sometimes make it seem as if they do. (I expect they feel the same way about us what with our various wars and bombings and drone strikes in their countries).

If you are beginning to feel that there is a black thug or a rogue cop or a Muslim terrorist around every corner, you can blame part of that on your news media. A million African-American men can walk peacefully down the street; a million cops can do their jobs with integrity and competence; a million Muslims can raise their families with values like yours and mine but you'll never hear about them as the t.v. goes on hour after hour after hour telling us why we should be terrified...and by extension, hate the ones who are terrifying us.

If that attitude prevails, we will be worse off than we are now. Yes, we must defend and protect ourselves as much as possible. Yes, if that means monitoring some of our phone calls, if it means our intelligence agency tracking likely suspects, if it means paying to give our protectors the most up-dated information gathering equipment, we must do all those things.

But turning on each other? That is a path to nowhere but more hatred and violence.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All Aboard!


Hop on board the train for 2015. It's pulling out of the station tonight at midnight. Some of us may not be ready to go yet but we have no choice. The Time Train keeps to its annual schedule whether we like it or not.

When you're young, it seems like that old train is just chugging along at about 20 miles an hour. "Come on!" you want to say, "I want my driver's license!  I want to graduate! I want to be able to go in the bars! I want to be an adult!"

As you get older, the train seems to pick up speed. "Can my little baby really be in school already, have we really been married 20 years, is that really a gray hair I see?"

The Time Train drags a little into your late 50's and early 60's, at least if you're like I was. "Man, I've worked 50 years, I am so so ready to retire and do as I please with my time." Finally, it happens. You get your Medicare card. You turn in your retirement letter. You work your last day.

And now, you want the damn train to stop altogether for a while. You had to walk right up to old age for retirement to happen but you'd really don't want to get any older. "I think I'll stop right here, thank you very much."

But, nope, darned if the engineer doesn't kick it into overdrive and you're 66, 67, 68 before you know it and next year you'll be 69 (at least if you my age, you will be be) and the year after that, oh, my God, 70!

So, you know, if I had my druthers, I'd just hang out in 2014 for another year but of course, I don't have my druthers and neither does anyone else.

I hear the whistle now. Time to climb on.

I hope you all have a wonderful ride through 2015.