Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Am I?

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I am a bleeding heart liberal with loaded handguns upstairs and down. I even drew a gun once on two kids who threatened me in a mall parking lot. Would I have shot them if they'd kept coming? Yes. I took my training with law enforcement. I support commonsense gun control.

I love puppies and kitties and every other kind of baby although I'm not especially enamored of most grown up people. I own three 3 cats and a dog of my own (or rather, they own me).

I can be a total redneck when it comes to NASCAR. Go ahead - say something nasty about Jimmie Johnson! I dare you!

I think we should legalize marijuana and even prostitution. (Why shouldn't adults be free to enter into consensual contracts with one another? Don't we believe in free enterprise and less intrusive government?)

I have no problem with political correctness. Trying to be aware of not hurting someone's feelings is just another way of offering one another respect. Can it be carried too far? Yes, and often is - by both sides. I'm just trying to be pleasant when I wish you Happy Holidays, not undermine your faith.

I believe in gay rights. I don't think God cares if people are gay. To be really trite about it, some of my best friends are gay.

I'm okay with the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes. I think society has a right to rid itself of humans that have turned malignant, just as the body tries to rid itself of cancerous cells.

I love the earth itself more than I love mankind. I think that over all, we've been terrible stewards of our planet. Those chickens may come home to roost one day but thankfully, probably too late to affect me. I'm glad I don't have children and grandchildren who will pay the price for our self-interest and greed.

I have worked for Democrats and Republicans and loved them both. My favorite bosses were a Democrat Mayor and a Republican Sheriff.

I have never been very sensitive. I have laughed heartily at sexist jokes and racist jokes and gay jokes and religious jokes.

I was recently called a predator because I'm so smart, I'm able to lure less intelligent people into being lemming libtards. I still haven't quite figured out if there is a compliment in there somewhere. More to the point, why would I want to do this unless I really believe it? Just to prove I can? Trust me, I have no aspirations of my own superiority.

I'm a hypocrite about certain things. For instance, I love steak and pork tenderloin and fried chicken but probably if I had to do the actual killing of cows and pigs and chickens, I'd become a vegetarian. I don't even like to catch fish. I don't even like to stomp on bugs....except spiders. Outside, it is "live and let live" but if they come in my house, spiders are dead....and fleas. I hate fleas.

I follow no particular religion. I can neither confirm nor deny. I lean toward believing in reincarnation but I couldn't say for sure. I lean toward believing in some kind of life after death but, again, I couldn't say for sure. I'm content to wait for the answers. In the meantime, I don't care what others believe, be they Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Jew.

I'm inclined to think that there is no such thing as Prosperity Theology. I'm inclined to think that ministers who live in mansions and drive Mercedes are on the wrong theological track. I'm inclined to think that whoever is in charge doesn't approve of rape, beheading, torturing or burning people alive in His/Her/Its name. These are things I think, not things I know for sure.

America speaks about its love for children, especially those of the pre-born variety, but I don't believe we really mean it. We would take better care of them if we did.

We all claim indignantly that we're not racists, no way, but though we speak the words, our actions prove something different. The election of Barack Obama has brought this glaringly light. Racism is alive and well in America. I think 99 percent of police officers are good people, trying to do a good job, but having said that, some of them seem to be doing a lot of unjustified shooting and most of their victims are black.

I think we would be very sorry if we deported all our immigrants but I do believe we need a better system of monitoring who we allow in and for how long. Why in the world when we all agree we want better border security, we can't get together and devise a bipartisan policy, I don't understand. Do some people want the issue more than the resolution?

I write all this to show that labels rarely apply to anyone 100 percent of the time. We are all an amalgam of opinions and beliefs. Few us follow in lockstep with any faith or political philosophy. In our country today though, we use a kind of shorthand - liberal, conservative, Christian, atheist, and once we've placed someone into one of those slots, we think we know all there is to know about them when we only have the merest understanding of who they really are.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Feel the Bern but Don't Burn Your Bridges

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I'm starting to get pissed off at Bernie Sanders fans, just as I got pissed off at Barack Obama fans in 2008. I almost never trust messianic true believers. I like some politicians better than others but I've never found one I thought was worthy of worship. I have never thought of a politician as my savior.

But many Obama supporters did believe this about him in 2008. They saw the promised land of hope and change lying just ahead of them if only Obama was elected. I was content to vote for him once he was nominated though I'd have preferred Hillary. He was elected and I think he's been an excellent president. He'd have been even more excellent if he'd have had even a tiny sliver of cooperation from the Republicans.

And that's where I was back then. I never believed in hope and change because it would have taken two sides to pull that off and, having seen them in action during Bill Clinton's impeachment, I didn't think for one minute that the R's would cooperate.

To me, Hillary was the one who'd paid her dues and served her time and had the experience to lead us into the post-911 world. But his acolytes saw Obama as the knight on a white charger to whom all things would be possible. He had pulled Excaliber out of the stone and he would use it to conquer evil and injustice.

Well, of course, those exalted expectations were not, and could never be met. Obama was elected but evil and injustice went on just as it always had. President's have limited power, after all. They cannot single-handedly turn the world, or even just their country, into a land of milk and honey.

So, Hillary was campaigning against, not just a man, but a saint. 

And, damned if she isn't campaigning against a saint again.

This time, instead of a young, hip, handsome black man, it's an old, rumpled, curmudgeonly Jewish man. Is "man" one of the key words here, do you think, or is their gender beside the point? 

Whatever it is, many of those who "feel the Bern" are becoming as cultish as the Obama adorers before them. This is no longer a race between two people, either of whom would be head and shoulders above any Republican nominated. No, Bernie is The One, the Only One. It has to be him, only him. If he isn't nominated, they simply won't vote. He is pure, don't you see, as opposed to Hillary?

No future president can pull off everything their followers would like them to pull off, especially if they have a Congress of the opposite party to deal with. None of them have supernatural powers despite what Obama's followers then and now Bernie's followers would like to believe.

I'm voting for Hillary in the primary. If Bernie gets the nomination, I'll vote for him in the general. If you're a Democrat and don't pledge to vote for the winner, you're a pure fool. 


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Conservatives, Thy Name is Psychosis

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A large segment of America seems to be suffering from self-induced psychosis. I listen to the conservative Patriot channel on my car radio as I'm traveling and after an hour or so, I want to shoot myself. The hosts scream and shout and rant and rave. "Woe is us! Be terrified You are beset by enemies on all sides! Our president is a Kenyan Muslim communist (socialist, fascist and every other negative -ist you can think of) bent on destroying America. Keep your guns handy because you will need them to "take America back".

That meme, "Take America Back" is one of the most frequently seen on Facebook. I saw one just this morning. I always ask in comments - "can you give me a few more details about how that actually works in practice?" Crickets. They don't have a clue. Maybe it is fearsome armed militias taking the country back one bird refuge at a time.

I hear and read constantly about how awful America now is. A shadow of its former self. That's what Donald Trump's campaign is all about - making America great again - because it's not great now, you know.

But I'm 69 and I haven't noticed all that much major change in America myself. My life goes on pretty much as it always has. I can't think of any freedoms I've lost unless you count wearing seatbelts and not being able to smoke where I used to smoke and driving 55 on non-interstate highways (none of which happened under Barack Obama). I bought my son's Glock from my daughter-in-law and the background check took maybe four minutes. I have to have health insurance now but then I've always had health insurance. I always wanted to have health insurance. People have different perspectives on what freedom is. I think it is not having to pay for dead beats who choose not to pay for insurance and then go to the emergency room when they are sick or in an accident.

Do I think America is perfect? Not by a long shot and some things I see make me sad. I think it is pathetic that while France invents a replacement material for healing broken bones and Japan (as well as other countries) invest in bullet trains that speed their citizens to their destination 4 times faster than any train we have here and while other countries build state-of-the art hospitals and airports and bridges, and while other countries enthusiastically engage in switching to renewable fuels, we here in America have been recently ruled by Neanderthals who cry "poverty" and say we can no longer afford to be the world's innovators....unless we're talking about weapons, of course, then money is no object . Watching our infrastructure decay makes me sad.

The whole world comes together over climate change but our Republican leadership pooh-poohs the idea because, what do scientists know? And what do women know about their own bodies. Nothing, I guess, that's why Big Daddy has to take charge of us. And though the major industrialized nations of the world were all involved in the Iran negotiations and sent their top physicists, what do they know compared to Republican congressmen?

They don't even like each other. They got rid of John Boehner and they were all - "hurray, victory for our side!" Then they elected Paul Ryan Speaker and now they hate him too because he compromised on a budget deal. The hosts on the Patriot Channel we're ready to draw and quarter him.

So, that's what makes me long for the America that used to be....seeing us falling farther and farther behind because of the archaic thinking of the people we elect.

The world is a dangerous place but it seems so much more scary to the conservatives. Home-school your kids because they might be exposed to alternate philosophies. Keep Guantanamo open at a cost of $1,000,000 a year per prisoner (as opposed to $30,000 in a federal facility) because we're too frightened of the detainees to have them touch foot on our soil. Don't let in Mexicans or Muslims. Imprison as many Blacks as we can because we know they are all thugs, better keep them away from us. Or, hell, maybe just shoot them.

It makes me sad to see so much of America living in a world of fear and conspiracy and paranoia stoked by their media - Fox News, radio talk show hosts, conservative blogs. Their stock in trade is crying wolf. They're coming for your guns! There are death panels in Obamacare! The president has seeded his administration with Muslims! He's going to declare martial law and call off the 2016 election! FEMA camps! Black helicopters!  Jade Helm!

No matter how many times the predictions don't pan out, they are never discouraged but go chasing after the next one with just as much fervor. Conservatives, thy name is Psychosis.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Dismal World of Conservative Hate


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I went on Facebook this morning, Christmas morning, hoping to see inspiring pictures of happy families, Christmas trees, messages of love, manger scenes, snow and Santa. And, to be truthful, there was a lot of that. But the first meme in my feed was a cartoonist's rendition of Hillary Clinton as a pig.

Farther along I found Sarah Palin's complaint that President Obama's official Christmas card was "strange". It featured a cozy fire in the fireplace, the family dog, a gorgeous Poinsettia on an end table and the requisite greetings - but no Christmas tree (although there are about 100 trees in the White House). Sarah obviously thinks Obama is trying to send a seditious subliminal message with this Christmas tree-less card.

I kept reading and saw that Fox News questioned whether Chelsea Clinton deliberately timed her pregnancy to coincide with the presidential campaign in an effort to help her mother.

From there I read that Michigan had slipped in (yet another) anti-democracy bill into last-minute legislation which would prevent anyone from speaking about or explaining any referendum on the ballot 60 days before an election. I'm also followed the continuing story of the poisoning of the Flint, Michigan water supply by lead and how the governor knew about it and covered it up. Lead poisoning especially affects children and is irreversible. We can look to Michigan to see what America would be like without democracy.

I read where Texas, not to be outdone by Michigan, had added end-the-year legislation to cease funding for Planned Parenthood for HIV, Hepatitis and other critical tests. That'll show those sluts!

I could go on because the ugliness is endless.

I love my country and always will but I have been ashamed of and embarrassed by my fellow citizens of the conservative persuasion since September 11, 2001. Conservative used to stand for personal responsibility and fiscal commonsense and respect for the individual.

All that has been replaced by cowardice and whiny victimization and bigotry and well, just plain meanness. Conservatives are afraid of Muslims and Mexicans and African Americans and gays and independent women and poor people and scientists and other religions, even other Christians if they don't espouse the same beliefs as the fundamentalists. The Pope who agreed with them was a good guy but this liberal Pope is a bad guy. No room for variance of interpretation here. The evangelicals have the right answers and the rest of us are going to hell. As Andrew Wilkow says on the Patriot Channel - "we're right, they're wrong; that's the end of the story."

Conservatives prefer problems to solutions. They bitch about Obama and immigration but they've been in power for a year now and they haven't even debated an immigration bill. They cry about Obama "leading from behind" in the Middle East but they haven't even debated, much less voted on, a new War Authorization to give the president a sense of what they would prefer him to do. Neither have they confirmed the (former Republican) Obama nominated who is an expert in tracking and stopping the ISIS money supply. Why not?

They'd rather spend a million dollars a year per prisoner on Guantanamo than $30,000 each to keep detainees in a secure federal facility because we can't allow them to be on the same soil we live on. They're too powerful and scary. We can't afford American principles anymore, not in an era of Torturers'R"Us. Donald Trump says we might accidentally torture some innocents but what the hell, they probably deserve it.

Conservatives see terrorists under every bush although they are much more likely to be killed by a countryman with a gun. Mass shootings by Americans rouse in them not even a shred of sympathy or certainly not any idea that perhaps there are some things we might try to lessen the carnage. Nope, six year old kids are simply collateral damage we have to tolerate for the sake of our cherished guns.

They complain constantly that their freedoms are being taken away by Obama but what freedoms are those? I haven't lost any freedoms that I'm aware of. I still have my guns. And certainly our first amendment rights are still in effect. Facebook proves that every day when you see things that would get you executed if Obama was Putin, that hero of the right. Because he's such a strong man, don't you know?  Strong Man used to be a term of negativity for dictators but no more in Right-Wing Land. They love their tough guys.

Which brings us to Donald Trump - the rude and the crude and the lewd. I can honestly say I am stunned that so many of my fellow Americans can listen to his hateful braggadocio and see him as a potential president.

He's known as a man who eschews political correctness which, in his mind, includes politeness and graciousness and diplomacy. Sometimes, he's up-front as when he calls Mexicans rapists and killers or demands that all Muslims be banned from the U.S. or he tells us how ugly Carly Fiorina is or how stupid a disabled reporter looks flapping his arms due to a disease or how nasty it is that Marco Rubio sweats or informs us that John McCain is a bogus hero because he was stupid enough to be captured.

 Sometimes, he uses coded speech like Megyn Kelly bleeding from her "whatever" (as in, "having her period") or Jeb Bush's nickname being "Jebra" (as in "sissy") or coaxing us to imagine how disgusting it is that Hillary uses the bathroom or telling us that she got "schlonged" (as in, "she got fucked"). And the media acts so puzzled, like most of us don't know that  "schlong" is a Yiddish expression for a cock, a dick, a peter - the male member, in other words, which I'm sure that any native New Yorker is well aware of.

The conservatives were bad enough before Trump. I listen to talk radio on my long commute - all channels so I have a sense of what the various factions of America are thinking. I never hear an optimistic word on conservative talk. Everything is downbeat and depressing, They yell; they harangue; they criticize, they lie. They love cruel teasing and making fun of people, whether it is the family of a boy shot by the police or a welfare mom who relies on food stamps to feed her kids.

They all love war too although none of them have ever been to war and voted against almost every veteran's bill that was put forward. Ted Cruz wants to carpet bomb Syria and Iraq and make the "sands glow in the dark" although that would mean killing lots of innocents..and lots of our allies as well. "We gotta' do what we gotta' do to keep America safe" as if this kind of behavior has ever made us safer.

Donald Trump wants to start make Mexico build a wall and and take all the Middle East oil. He has a plan, he says, for destroying ISIS. It would be nice if he'd let us in on on what it is, wouldn't it?

Chris Christie says he'd shoot down a Russian plane. World War III anyone?

There listeners call in, practically foaming at the mouth. They can't think of enough vituperative things to say about Obama and Hillary and Nancy and Harry. Traitors is the least of it.

I simply don't comprehend why so many Americans are so eager to jump into the dank, dark, dismal world of the conservatives.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Talk is Cheap


I often see memes on Facebook saying that we shouldn't take in refugees, of any kind, but especially Syrians, until we house and feed our own poor, but especially veterans. I believe we could easily do both. It is all a matter of how we set our priorities.

The budget is essentially divided into three parts: the first is mandatory spending. These are budget items that are set in stone, things like social security. The second is discretionary. This is where Congress can mix and match and cut and increase. The last is interest on the national debt which, like mandatory spending, is unchangeable.

This graph shows how we spend our discretionary income. The dark blue represents military appropriations, by far the largest expense compared to anything else. Do you think we could find a few billion in cuts, particularly in the military, if we want to house homeless veterans and desperate refugees. I expect the answer is yes if we really cared enough but we don't.

GovernmentEducationMedicare & HealthVeterans' BenefitsHousing & CommunityInternational AffairsEnergy & EnvironmentScienceTransportationFood & AgricultureDiscretionary Spending 2015: $1.11 Trillion

Monday, November 16, 2015

Semantic Divide

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We Americans are like a reverse Tower of Babel. The words we say are the same but the meanings are entirely different. We talk past each other with neither side understanding what the other is trying to say, almost as if we are speaking two different languages. If this keeps up, good old Webster is going to have to start printing a conservative dictionary and a liberal dictionary.

For instance, the Paris bombings. At the Democratic debate the moderator questioned the candidates about their reluctance to use the term "radical Islam". This, of course, is something that incenses the right who accuse Democrats of being soft on terrorism because they prefer to say radical jihadism instead. They criticize President Obama because to them, he pussyfoots around and won't call a spade a spade.

Democrats don't like the radical Islam characterization because they believe it paints with far too broad a brush, in effect, putting an entire religion under suspicion. There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. They make up 22 percent of the world's population. They are .8 percent of America.

The vast majority of Muslims are not radical jihadists or radical Islamists, however you want to phrase it. In fact, as reported by Think Progress, "Muslims around the world condemn Paris bombings." So to imply, as the Republicans seem to, that we are at war with Islam itself is not helpful. Muslim countries are our partners in fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda. Muslim Americans are soldiers in our military. The Republicans make a mistake to try to turn this into a Christian versus Muslim holy war. We need the moderate Muslims in our battle against terrorism. Let's not allow our own fear and intolerance turn them away.

Three other simple words that get people passionately aroused are Black Lives Matter. Did the people who coined the phrase mean to say that only black lives matter or that black lives matter also. As a liberal, it seems clear those words should be defined as - "we want to be treated like everyone else."

We want our sons to walk down the street or play in the park and not be killed because, to whites, they look like thugs. We want to be sentenced to the same punishment as whites who commit the same offenses. We want to be treated with the same respect by police and other authorities, not shot because we're having a heart attack or tasered to death in jail because we're having a seizure. We want to be hired or not based on our qualifications and not our skin color.

But the American right has taken Black Lives Matter as a call to arms by African-Americans who want special rights. They deny that blacks are treated in a lesser manner. They pooh-pooh the idea of White Privilege. Although they've most likely benefited from it their entire lives, they simply can't see it for what it is because it feels so natural to them. Black Lives Matter protesters are simply violent criminals as far as they are concerned.

Gun control is another code phrase. Ask a liberal what gun control means to them and they'll probably first say, background checks and closing gun show loopholes and stricter penalties for straw sales. Indeed, some of them might very well say a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. But I don't know a single liberal who wants to rescind the Second Amendment. Many who support stricter gun regulations are gun owners themselves.

Ask a conservative what gun control means to them and nine times out of ten, they'll say gun confiscation. All the rest is simply trying to get the camel's nose under the tent, prior to banning all of the over 270 million guns in the United States. You can't talk them out of it no matter how hard you try.

Political correctness is another idea that puts us in a muddle. I'm not even sure exactly what it means in 2015. It began as an effort to be aware of the feelings of people not like us. How hard was it to quit calling African-Americans the "n" word if they found it offensive? Or Mexicans wet-backs? Or gays queers?

As time went on, it became a little more difficult to color between the lines of political correctness. Was it wrong to name our sports teams after Indians? A tribe name like Seminoles doesn't sound so bad but Redskins, which used to be a pejorative term for Native Americans, maybe so. Is the Confederate flag offensive to black people. Yeah, I expect it probably is.

Is it offensive to conservatives to be told Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I guess it must be. I used to send out Christmas cards without giving it a thought. I just took the next one in the box for whoever was on my list. It might be a cute little mouse or Santa or a manger scene or silver bells. It was the thought that counted, right? Then I discovered that I might have been unknowingly upsetting people so I quit sending cards.

Both sides are constantly horrified by what they consider the other's political correctness. And truthfully, both carry PCness to idiotic extremes. Little boys should not be expelled from school for eating their sandwich into the shape of a gun. Little girls should not be expelled from school for wearing a sleeveless blouse.

How did we reach the point of being convinced that we have a "right" not to be offended anyway?  We all need to toughen up. None of us get through life without experiencing hurt feelings but let's save our indignation for serious injustices.

I often listen to political talk radio on my commute. I constantly hear conservative talk show host pontificate about me - "liberals say...." or "liberals believe...."  My silent response is "hey, wait a minute, I never say that," or "That's not at all what I believe."

Presumably, conservatives believe liberals make the same wrong assertions about them.

Maybe we should try to get together and talk about it.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Mormons and Their Cruel New Rules

The Church of Latter Day Saints, more familiarly known as Mormons, has just released new rules regarding LGBT members and their children. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders have been declared apostates and will not be allowed to belong to the church. Well, okay, churches are allowed to set their own rules even if they are mean and narrow-minded. But that is nothing compared to how innocent children will be treated. Normally Mormon children are blessed as infants and baptized when they are about 8 years old. No more. From now on, the offspring of LGBT parents cannot be blessed nor baptized until they turn 18 and then only if they:
  • Disavow the practice of same-sex relationships.
  • No longer live with gay parents.
  • Get approval from their local leader and the highest leaders at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
Of course, this wouldn't mean anything to me since I'm not religious. I'd tell the church to go to hell. End of story. I can't imagine belonging to a church that believes in a God who would condone such cruelty. I can't imagine parishioners who would deny their own parents for the sake of such a church. 

But I know not everyone is like me. Some families have been members of the same denomination for generations. They have put their faith in their church and its leaders. All their friends belong. It is the center of their social lives. They have been taught that the church is the ultimate arbiter of all things moral since they were old enough to comprehend.

So what happens if a child dies at ten years old and has been neither blessed or baptized? Do Latter Day Saints believe that child goes to heaven or hell? Who would want to simply hope for the best for their children until age 18, praying that nothing terrible happens in the meantime? What parents would want to think their child would turn on them on their 18th birthday. 

So the church puts its would-be members on a torturous path of church or family. It is a travesty of what church is supposed to represent to mankind.

Of course, the Mormons aren't the first to do this. Many fundamentalist denominations have convinced parents to beat their gay children or shun them or send them for "conversation therapy" which brutalizes vulnerable kids who are born "different". 

I'll never understand it. Your children or your church is no contest at all as far as I'm concerned.