Tag Archives: United States

How the Grand Outdated Party can Catch Up to the Times

A lot is being said this week about the election, and the “soul searching” that the Republican Party needs to do. Here’s a suggestion for how the GOP can get back on track in America… D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

Divorce the Party… from the racists. Not only are there not enough of them anymore to get you elected, as Lindsey Graham aptly pointed out well before this election, but there’s more people of color than ever before, not to mention more educated people than ever before. Educated people, as a rule, reject racism, the exception being Empire.  Educated people also see through shams, like dismantling Pell grants and public education in favor of vouchers to “white only” religious schools.

Divorce the Party… from the Evangelical Dogmatists. They cost you big votes this year, from the alternative attraction communities (LGBT), to those who need insurance to pay for medications, and most importantly from those who are female. That’s a lot of votes that won’t be changing as long as your social policies and platforms are based in the 2nd century BCE. There’s a reason that the First Amendment was first. As long as you try to make a religious state out of America you’ll be wanting for votes. The GOP was here and successful way before the Moral Majority. Let them go their own way, wearing their own blinders.

In this day of internet and Twitter and 24 hour news cycles, of daily images from Mars and the other side of the Universe, of bacteria and viruses and Higgs bosons… having an anti-science, anti-fact stance represents the essence of the flat-earther, the Luddite, the denier of progress. Who is going to vote for that in the 2nd millennium? Evangelical dogma helped bring you down, and will keep you there.

Divorce the Party… from serving only the wealthy and corporate. 1% can’t win a democratic election, even with bought Supreme Court Justices who rule that corporations are people and money is speech. The wealthy and corporate have always done well in America, even if occasionally needing to be reined in, ala Teddy Roosevelt.

Ask yourselves, does screaming about government regulations in an age of deaths from e.coli on fruits and vegetables, deaths from fungus in prescription medications, deaths from cars that don’t brake, or that accelerate wildly out of control… does arguing against regulations to prevent these from happening make any sense at all when it comes to governance? How long has it been since a car manufacturer sold us a deathtrap that rolled over unexpectedly, or whose gas tank exploded from minor collisions? Those regulations apparently worked, yet the companies stayed in business and profited.

So what’s that leave for Republicans?

How about a more middling road to travel, one that can still be based on values, as long as they are inclusive ones?

It’s a road that can be fiscally conservative and still make money for the ‘job creators’ while rebuilding the infrastructure of the Country. A platform that invests in workers via education and training, in infrastructure via roads and bridges, in sustainability by ensuring that we don’t kill our environment while harvesting it’s riches… that’s a platform that many could support, all the while making the corporate wealthier.

Eisenhower did the Interstate Highway system, arguably the best roads in any of the lower 48 States. That’s the last good thing that I can think of that a Republican administration has done for America. The ones since have been doing to America, not for.

It’ll be a messy divorce to be sure, but all parties, America included, will be better off as a result.

And the big upside for the GOP is that your candidates won’t have to lie like dogs every time they appear in public.



Spoons, Smiles and Romney

This morning I listened to a discussion about whether the Democrats made a mistake in campaigning that Romney was severely conservative, especially in light of Romney’s recent moves to the center, adopting moderate positions not uttered in a GOP campaign.

As if this move to be moderate reflects Romney’s real nature.

It reminded me of feeding my children when they were still in bibs and high chairs.

Old enough for that first streak of independence, that insistence to hold their own spoon, I’d watch and encourage them as they slathered food up towards their own mouths, slurping and cooing as they gummed pureed fruits and veggies.

Inevitably, small stomachs fill, attention drifts and play starts; that’s when spoons hit the floor.

I pick it up, wash it, and hand it back, with a gentle reminder of ‘no’.

My child’s head shakes sideways a few times, echoing ‘No’, even as their hand, firmly grasping the spoon, moves ever so slowly to the side of the chair tray.

The head shakes again… ‘No’. The beautiful baby blue eyes fixed on mine. A slight smile rests above a pudgy chin.

The spoon, now clear of the high-chair tray, drops to the floor.

Did my child, this pre-toddler, just look me in the eyes, smile and use misdirection to lie to me?


I pick it up, wash it, and hand it back, with a firmer reminder of ‘No’.

My child’s head shakes sideways, agreeing ‘No’, even as their hand, firmly grasping the spoon, moves steadily to the side of the chair tray.

I point, as my Mother used to, saying ‘No’ in a firm, serious, fatherly way.

The hand stops. I smile and say “very good, now finish eating”.

The hand starts again, moving to the edge of the tray, my child’s eyes fixed on mine, somehow brighter and bluer than a moment ago, the smile now broader, making the chin even pudgier.

The spoon hits the floor.

We can learn at an early age that a smile and a sincere look can carry us far, letting us get away with things we want to do, fooling others into thinking we mean something we don’t.

We also learn how to spot those people, so that we’re not taken advantage of by their dishonesty.

As a social observer with time on my hands, I’ve had the opportunity to follow the Republican Primary and watch the debates. By Romney’s own words, he’s a ‘severely conservative’ kind of guy. By his own words, he’ll defund Planned Parenthood and Obamacare on day one. By his own words we should still have soldiers and marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for years to come (“the Taliban may not have watches, but they have calendars!”).

By his own words, and frankly the most comfortable I’ve seen Romney when speaking (it was behind closed doors to people who could afford $50,000 for surf and turf, and he thought we couldn’t hear), he said he doesn’t care about 47% of us because we don’t take personal responsibility, get government benefits and think we might deserve them.

That’s the spoon.

Once he had the GOP nomination, the move to the center began. He said his health plan allows for pre-existing conditions (it doesn’t). He says he supports womens’ rights to health and choice and fair salary. He says he agrees with the President’s foreign policy and doesn’t believe in sending in troops to the Middle East. He’s now for veterans and seniors and retirees who receive government benefits, and he wants to raise the middle class back to the middle.

That’s the smile and head shake ‘No’. It’s not real, it’s saying whatever works to get his way.

Romney has a good smile, and a preacher’s demeanor, one not so different from car salesmen and hucksters. Regardless of what he says lately, it’s just smiles and misdirection, and not any different from that of my high-chair kids years ago.

Don’t be fooled, if he’s elected, it’s the spoon that is going to drop, and we’re the floor.

Privacy, the Internet and You

Privacy: the quality or state of being apart from company or observation.—-Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

A handful of reads this week prompt me to write about privacy and our use of the internet.

First was the story that some GOP members of Congress, doing, as always, the bidding of Big Business, have taken issue with modern web browsers ability to toggle a ‘do not track’ button. Like firewalls and virus checkers, everyone who surfs the ‘net should be aware of these security tools.

Basically, there is code inside the internet (cookies are just one type) that is designed to not only track where we go and what we see, but then to report our movements to businesses, or whoever is doing the tracking.

They want to use our internet habits to better ‘know’ us. Now think about that for a second…

Modern web browsers have a “Do not track” button that lets ethical marketers know that we choose to ‘opt out’ of their tracking. Seems fair to me.

Until recently, advertisers have said that they would honor our preferences. That’s been changing, and the final straw, apparently, is Microsoft’s decision to launch their next Internet Explorer version with the ‘do not track’ switch now a default, and a setup question asking the user if they want to be tracked.

Microsoft says that today’s computer users expect security and privacy protections to be built into their products.  I know that I do. Good call Microsoft!

The Board of the Association of Advertisers disagrees, though. If everyone using IE chooses to not be tracked, “companies would be prevented from collecting data on 43% of American web browsers”, ‘browsers’ meaning us, not the software.

As a result, some advertisers (the Digital Advertisers Association) are letting us know that they will no longer honor the ‘do not track’ button, since we have to say “yes, please track me” as opposed to “no, I’d prefer not to be tracked”.

It’s an honor system anyway, and one that I don’t really believe is followed to any consistency.

There are tools and browser add-ons that, rather than ask not to be tracked, block invisible trackers in their, well, tracks. Many are free. If you don’t want your internet browsing habits known by just about anybody, you owe it to yourself to use these kinds of browser tools.

Some tools block tracking of your habits by disabling the code when it shows up. Some block who you appear to be by changing the address that you’re coming from.

All put the power in your hands, with the result not depending on the ‘honor’ of the business world.

There is one down side, however. The speed at which google works for me, and your search engine of choice works for you, is greatly dependent on the engine learning our preferences through tracking previous searches and the results that we choose from that search. Turn off tracking, or hide yourself through location tools, and these searches will slow down some and become somewhat less fruitful.

I can live with slower searches to not have what I’ll describe below.

The next article I read was about how today’s political campaigns have purchased our browsing history, to the point of creating profiles of us and using those profiles to alter what we see on their sites. One example I remember is if you have a conservative profile with church or religious sites in your browsing history, you’re greeted with a ‘have a blessed day!’ and content is presented that meshes with your profile; but if conservative with no church or religious sites in your history, a more business oriented site is presented, and without the  homilies.

Both campaigns are using this tactic, it isn’t limited to conservatives and evangelicals.  Liberals can be polarized into environmentally oriented or civic oriented, each with their own buttons to be pushed. We expect campaigns to want to push our buttons, but I prefer they tell me what they stand for before they know what I am for. When I go to the Romney or Obama web site, I want to see what they are about, who and what they stand for, and not just the parts they think I’ll agree with. And if greeted with a “hey y’all” when the page opened, because I live in the South, of course… well, that would be just too much.

Another way the campaigns use our bought information is to tap into the network of people they have and cross match to see if any might know us as well. Have you gotten a call from a long-lost friend who just happened to call about the election? Or maybe a call from a neighbor you haven’t met, wondering which route to the polling place that you think is best, with your local streets as choices?  If you do, the chances that it is happenstance are slim indeed. And more than a bit creepy.

The third article I read was a snippet about the privacy at Facebook. Many apps (Skype, Horoscopes, games) used by Facebook users give hidden permission for the app’s makers to access not just your data history, but that of all of your “friends” as well, and will even use your non Facebook contact lists, such as e-mail and address books, to get them. I say “hidden permission” because most users don’t know that’s what they are agreeing to, and would not agree if they understood the meaning.

What is scary about these situations is that the information on us is there to be had, to the highest bidder, information that many of us would not care for our parents, our children, or our employers to know. I know, some of you are thinking porn sites, and maybe poker rooms, but it’s really much broader and less sinister than that.

And it’s being used to manipulate us into doing things. Some might argue that all sales is manipulation, and that may be. But imagine if the used car salesman had your browsing and prior purchase history to negotiate with.

We have some control, and no, I don’t mean in choosing only acceptable-to-every-conceivable-person-down-the-road web browsing. I mean that we can use easily available tools to block the tracking of everything we do online.

We can also let our government know that we do expect a measure of privacy in America, especially in our homes.

But geo, you say, the internet is certainly outside of our home.

Sort of.

When you clicked the link to read this post, you effectively dialed my number. A server picked up, saying ‘hello’ by sending you this post to read. It’s not much different from a phone call, which is why Skype works.

We expect our telephone calls to be private, both who we call and what we say.

If you are reading this in an internet café, maybe because you are not in a public place you also have no expectation of privacy.

Same if you’re reading on your cell phone at work or in class or at an Arby’s.

But if, like me, nearly 100% of your internet use is in your own home, I do believe that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Most people who live around here aren’t comfortable with the notion that the government wants to know who owns a gun. I’m one of those people too.

So how comfortable can we be, knowing that the government, or the church, or the neighborhood association, can buy that information, and everything else about us, from those ‘advertisers’ who would take it without our knowledge or permission?

I say not at all.

A Question of Value(s)

There’s a lot being said these days about health care, from Medicare to Obama Care. Get past the lies and rhetoric, and most of it boils down to questions of financing and access. Think of them as “who makes the rules over who gets to play”.

Republicans believe that we should ‘get government out-of-the-way” and let the free market provide financing of health care, and people can choose and buy whatever they can afford; Democrats believe that the most cost-effective way is partnership between government and the private sector, with basic health care available to all Americans whether they can afford it or not.

Beliefs that are as different as can be.

“Getting government out-of-the-way” is a catchy phrase that sounds good on paper, until we stop to consider that it’s our government that makes possible Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and WIC (a Federal program for Women, Infants and Children). Only those who will never need those programs are against them being available for those of us who do.

My parents and grandparents (and one great-grandmother too!) benefited greatly from social security and Medicare; my nieces and nephews and their kids have benefited from Medicaid and WIC.  Not because they  refused to take personal responsibility for their lives, but because they were either very young and victims of un-employment and divorce, or retired after a career of working and paying in their fair share, or very old and widowed to men who did the same.

I think about what life would have been like if Social Security hadn’t been there to keep them independent, in their own house with their own stuff; if Medicare hadn’t been there to get them the lowest prices on their health care, and to cover their hospital bills which ran into the mid six figures for each of my parents.

It’s a picture that more people need to consider.

Once upon a time, when I started working in health care, Medicare operated as a fee-for-service operation. What that meant was, we provided a service, any service for any reason, and we’d get paid what we billed.

When I worked directly for the hospital, we had guidelines for care. When I worked for the private, free market company that the same hospital contracted with to provide services, instead of “care” guidelines, we had “charge” guidelines.  That’s our first clue as to the differences in purpose between a public and a private health organization in how they approach treating patients.

The one that still rings in my mind’s eye is PRN (as needed) oxygen. We put oxygen equipment in every room, and charged every patient every day, whether they used the oxygen or not. I filled out enough charge forms to still remember the totals after all of these years: $37.50 per day, for just in case.  Another example was post-op breathing treatments ordered to ‘prevent’ pneumonia. Every surgical patient received not one or two, but three different breathing treatments, each four to six times a day until discharge.

The first big round of Medicare reform in the 1980’s stopped those practices, as the Medicare powers that be, among other things, declined to pay for that which wasn’t used, and only covered those things that were proven to be of benefit.  What a concept!

Think of the car dealer that charges for undercoating we don’t want or need, but no undercoat was ever applied. Think of the restaurant that charged you for an appetizer that you neither ordered nor received. None if us would stand for that, nor would we likely continue doing business with those businesses.

My free market industry screamed foul, and said government had no place in health care, and said government was stifling business, and said that government was killing jobs, and they still lost. Millions were saved that very first year by not paying the free market what they said they deserved, just because they said they deserved it. No longer would everyone pay for oxygen they didn’t use; no longer would treatments be covered to prevent pneumonia when pneumonia wasn’t even a risk to be had.

That’s millions in Medicare (taxpayer) dollars, saved by the recommendations of Medicare panels, the first ones to get the moniker ‘death panels’ for daring to come between “the physician and his patient”. My field, respiratory care, was still a relatively new field when I entered, helped lead the way to data driven health care, using good science to get data that showed us what worked, and what had the same or worse impact as not doing it all.

Facts are powerful, but only when people listen to them.

Those Medicare rules didn’t apply to other insurers, although the insurance industry was quick to adopt any reason that limited their payments on claims, because fewer claims paid means higher profits. That’s why they have pre-existing condition clauses.

It didn’t change for the un-insured, however, who to this day pay higher (retail) prices for everything in health care than does Medicare (big volume discount) or private insurance (big stick discount).

And that’s the key, folks… you see, it’s the un-insured, those who are charged retail, that eat up the space in our emergency rooms. They’re the ones who increase everybody’s costs, and by the retail price, not the much lower volume price.  Most un-insured still get emergency care, in the most expensive way possible, but also in a punishing way, one that demands that their basic health needs be neglected until they become emergencies. One shouldn’t have to suffer a life threatening pneumonia just because of lack of money to treat a chest cold. One shouldn’t be forced to buy an ICU stay or lose a leg because of lack of money to treat diabetes or a scraped shin that becomes infected.

I know of a man who spent over 3 months in ICU, on and off life support, because he lacked the money to buy insurance to see a doctor to get a tetanus shot.

He got tetanus. Really.

We all paid his bill, through our higher prices, a bill easily hundreds of thousands of times more than the cost of a tetanus shot.  Now think about that for a second…

That’s just one reason universal health care is a more cost efficient model than what we have today.

Every business in America, and especially insurance companies, are in business not just to make a profit, but rather to make the most profits. That’s how so many were able to literally (and legally) soak Medicare all of those years, and why Medicare went along with it. We should thank them, because it’s because of that soaking that Medicare became data driven and has the control it has today.

I’m not against capitalism, but because I believe that health care should be a basic right, and not just a privilege of the wealthy, I believe that government has to not only be involved, but has to be in the driver’s seat of the financing.

The government has shown, through the VA Health system and Medicare, that they can be both smart with our money and make sure that all qualifying Americans are included. That’s not saying that they each do not have their issues, but it’s a much better system than it was when I started. Much better.

The free market has proven to be into profits, and profits alone, the rest of us be damned. Deaths from the tainted compounded drug, now up to eleven, that fungus filled injectable drug from the unregulated compounding pharmacy which chose profits over our safety… that’s as good an example as any against letting the free market run health care.

Fee for service and the free market works with cars and trucks, and restaurants maybe, but not for health care.

Legitimate Rape, Domestic (in)Equality and Why…

I am continually surprised at how some elected individuals are willing to insult almost half of the voting population. I’m not weighing in on whether there is a “War on Women” by the conservative party, I’m looking into ‘why’ there is such a concerted effort to turn back the clock when it comes to women. It either shows how little respect they have for women, or how much they are beholden to the religious right, or how low they’ll go to keep the white, redneck voter.

First, I don’t for a minute believe that (most) republicans don’t have respect for the women in their lives. Easily half of the republicans I have known have been women.

Women who believe in equal rights, fair pay, and equal protection under the law for the fairer sex. I’ve known both sides of the GOP base, the wealthy and educated, and the low to middle-income, hard-working “we-don’t-need-no-education” side. They are all, as with people everywhere, (mostly) good people, and I’d say that less than a quarter of their men slap them around these days. Forty years ago that number was much higher.

Now granted, while recent republican actions show a great dis-respect for women as… a group, or a concept, they don’t really carry it over to their own wives and daughters. See Dick Cheney on same-sex marriage. Or see the ‘blue collar patriot’ guy whose wife works as a nursing aide in a catholic hospital and has to pay cash for her migraine medicine, which, because it can also be used as birth control, the insurance doesn’t have to cover.

“Legitimate Rape…”

I know this quote was shocking to many. I’m not shocked at all. I know lots of Lindsey Graham’s angry white guys who think that date rape isn’t rape at all, and moreover they think it unfair and highly prejudicial to hold them responsible for using Rohypnol (roofies) or alcohol to incapacitate a girl before using her. Seriously. Here in America in 2012.

You know them too, they are the ones who cheer at the thought of letting an uninsured accident victim die by the side of the road. They are the ones who boo the Marine who fought three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, but is also gay. Or especially if lesbian.

So Todd Akin’s comment stems from his threatened republican male psyche, reeling from the social progress of the sixties and seventies, resenting the changes in societal norms, yearning for the good ol’ days of the ‘50’s when men were men and women did what they were told and then kept their mouths shut about it. Akin’s type, bolstered by hate trumpeter Rush Limbaugh, is sure of the notion that “feminazi’s” are now taking our jobs and then taking advantage of us by crying rape after the fact, when it really isn’t rape at all (well, from the rapists point of view, anyway).

And that BS about doctors telling him that the female body “has a way of shutting down a pregnancy from rape” (if legitimate, wink-wink)… that’s just the continuation of the abortion fight. After all, there’s no need for abortion in case of rape if there’s no pregnancy that can result. Facts are beside the point.

Combine the two in a public speaker, the GOP and the Religious Right mentality, and you get quotes from Todd Akin, Pat Robertson, Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum ad infinitum, that make absolutely no sense at all in a modern age. Here’s one that both fits and makes a nice segue:

“I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that’s the way it is, period.” –Pat Robertson

Domestic equality…

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but among other things this year (not jobs), the republicans in Congress have:

– failed to renew the Violence against Women act;
– vowed to repeal the Ledbetter Fair Pay for Women Act;
– introduced more bills designed to limit a woman’s choice over her body than any other Congress in history;
– attacked Planned Parenthood because low-income women are the main users.

This years Republican Party platform calls for the end of the Federal Student Loan program. The fact that women now outnumber men going to college might just be coincidence.

But I don’t think so.

Why pick on girls? See the Pat Robertson quote above. There are others.

But I am a male, so these things aren’t about me. Yeah, right.
I’m a father, and I have daughters. So these things really set me off.

Call me crazy, but I think my daughters should have the same rights as my sons; the same opportunities, the same consideration before the law, the same protections in society and the workplace.

Know what? Dick Chaney does too. Todd Akin does too.

Pat Robertson… not so much.

It didn’t happen for my mother’s generation, and even between siblings in my family there are big differences in the gender opportunities and access that were available to us during and after high school.

But our kids deserve better. Our parents believed that, and we got better than they had. We believed that, and our children got better than we did.

Now that our children are adults, they need to believe it as well. The clocks should run forward, not back.

The Religious Right

In the late 1970’s, a Christian based political movement gained momentum and even ran candidates for President. Their goal was to transform our government into one that ran on the principles of the Christian interpretation of the Bible.

Around the same time, the GOP picked up most of the southern white males (and by default, their women and subsequent generations) who couldn’t stomach the thought that blacks had equal rights, and they blamed the Democrats for giving them away.

“But here’s the thing about rights-they’re not actually supposed to be voted on. That’s why they’re called rights.” — Rachel Maddow

That also means that rights can’t be ‘given’ away, only recognized. Now think about that for second…

Anyway, when the Moral Majority couldn’t get elected by the majority of the people, they threw in with the GOP, in a grand bargain to reshape America in their own image. They wanted Roe v. Wade gone. They wanted mandatory prayer back in the schoolroom, the Ten Commandments back in the courtroom and the Bible in our bedroom. The GOP had the political organization to make it happen.

The GOP wanted, as always, breaks for the corporate and wealthy, mostly in the way of deregulating governmental oversight of business practices. The kind of business practices that used sweatshops and child labor. The kind of business practices that caused Love Canal, and the BP oil spill. Business hates regulations, because safety, ours and that of their employees, cuts into profits. It’s not personal or anything. It’s just capitalism.

The GOP’s problem had been there were not enough voting American’s that benefited from perks to the wealthy and corporate. They needed votes, and Moral Majority ones would be just fine. Or so it seemed at the time.

Since the normal democratic process wasn’t working for them, they would attack through the back door. The fact that the majority of Americans didn’t want what they were peddling was of no consequence, because they believe they know what’s best for all of us.

The key for both was to fight a progressive Congress by stacking the judicial system with religious conservative minded judges who would rule in their favor against ‘liberal’ laws.

The key was to get a President elected who could appoint Supreme Court Justices that would decide for conservative and religious causes, and last for years after that President was gone.

Then they both started screaming about ‘left wing activist judges’ who were turning America into a godless, socialist State.


There’s a word that describes what the Religious Right is trying to do: Dominionism. No, it’s not trying to be like Canada. If only…

It’s trying to change our government, from the inside, to one that governs according to Biblical concepts. Think Sharia law (laws and justice based on Muslim holy scriptures), only with Evangelical Christians for Imam’s and Ayatollahs, and with the Bible instead of the Quran.

Both call for stoning people to death in a number of rather minor instances.

I’m all for living by Christian values, a quick read through this blog reveals that I believe in feeding the hungry, and in charity for the poor, and in helping those in need.

But then there’s this:

“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.”

That’s the First Amendment to the Constitution, the first of what is known as the Bill of Rights. Our rights.

Which makes Dominionism more than un-Constitutional. It’s anti-Constitution.

Which makes it anti-America… so I’m 100% against it.

Here’s a little bit why…

The Pilgrims (1620) came here to get away from state enforced religion.

Protestants under Roger Williams (1636) did too.

As did most of the Irish. We were taught in school that it was the potato famine (1840) that brought them to America. They didn’t tell us that the ‘famine’ only affected the catholic Irish, or that most of the food grown in Ireland during the famine was shipped to England, by the Protestant government, intentionally, in an effort to literally starve more catholics to death, in the name of both God and Country. Today we’d call that genocide.

It was State religion, in this case Anglicanism, which drove our ancestors here to found a better place.

The Founding Fathers were open in their expressions of their individual faith, and clear in their intention that religion has no place in the governing of a free people.

The Constitution is clear that we are free to worship as we please, and that there will be no State religion to say otherwise.

The concerted efforts by the GOP to pass legislation and use judicial activism to press their religious views on the rest of America crosses that line between individual religious freedom and State enforced religion. Their actions are, at their core, un-American.

Joseph McCarthy never found the Red threat he thought was trying to take down our American system of government from the inside. I say he was just forty years early and looking for the wrong Reds.

The Point

In America, we are free to go (or not) to the Church of our choice, even one that uses an interpretation of the Bible of it’s choice, or even no Bible at all.

In America, we are free to proselytize, preach, give testimony, or witness to anyone who will listen.

But in America, we are not free to force others to listen, to make others go to our church, to make others say the Lord’s Prayer our way, to tell others who they can’t marry, or to make others also keep their women down.

Those that champion laws that enforce religious belief are free to live here as they believe, yet they would force our compliance with laws when we do not share their belief.

They are even free to make laws making the rest of us live their way. Even bad laws can and have been passed. But they should not stand. The First Amendment is quite clear and the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land.

We have a judicial system that is designed to protect the majority from the whims of a minority. As we’ve seen above, that system has been the target of an agenda that has the clear goal of subverting the Constitution in order to make all Americans live their way.

And that’s where the grand bargain falls apart. The “I’m a little bit business, I’m a little bit evangelical” marriage between the GOP and the moral majority hits the wall right here.

You see, the people who make up the wealthy and corporate GOP base are Catholics and Methodists and Agnostics and Presbyterians and Mormons and Lutherans and Jews and various flavors of Baptist and Christian other than Evangelical. They could tolerate the fringe ideas as long as they were walking down the same path to mutual power. But now that they’ve come to the ultimate fork in the road, taking the step to Dominionism leaves them out in the cold with the rest of us masses.

And you know how much the wealthy and corporate hate being mingled with us masses.

Some of the uncharacteristic dysfunction we see this year from the GOP is, in my mind, a result of the growing divide between the religious right and those traditional conservatives who have begun to realize that they’ve been working against their own interests by helping those who, in the name of God, want to infringe on other people’s rights.

Thomas Jefferson said,
“In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to Liberty.”

…. yes, even that of the wealthy and corporate.

Meanwhile, know whom you vote for, know what they stand for, and vote for those who believe in a diverse and free Country over those who want us all to be the same.

Because there is no freedom in all of us having to be the same.






Better off?


The question is not “Am I better off today than 4 years ago?”, the questions we should be asking is   “Is the Country better off, and Is my State better off, and Is my City better off?”  In other words, it’s “Are we…?”, not “Am I…?”

Ok, I admit I dig JFK’s ‘Ask not…’ speech, the one that says we all have a duty to help make the USA a better place. It says that when we contribute to making the Country better, whether in our own, small way, or by placing the needs of the Country above our personal, selfish one’s, our actions make the place better for all of us.

We, not I.

We elect Presidents and Senators and Representatives to go to Washington to run the country, Governors, State Senators and Representatives to run our States, Mayors and Councilmen and women to run our cities. We expect them to work together to get the job done. It’s the way we’ve done it for over 200 years.

If that job isn’t getting done, if things aren’t as they should be, then we deserve to ask why not?

In the case of the Country, there is little doubt that improvement has been made over 4 years ago, despite the obstructionist Congress we’ve had.

Harry Truman said that his Congress in ’47 did so little that he called them the ‘do-nothing Congress” for only passing 900 or so pieces of legislation (most were pro-business).  The Congress of 2012 has passed only a fraction (close to 16%, or one sixth) of that. In Founding Father terms, that makes this year’s Congress 1/6th of a Do-Nothing in terms of representation.  Ayn Rand would sneer at their ‘productivity’.

Four years ago, as a result of self-inflicted finance and housing sector chicanery, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, every month. Millions had already lost their jobs when the Obama administration took office. Today, instead of losing almost a million jobs a month, as we had under the Bush administration, we gain 100,000 or more jobs every month. That’s simple math, folks.

Four years ago we had our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers fighting and dying in the sand, in two wars that we started in two different countries, neither of which can be easily justified. Today, we’re down to just one, and it is winding down. That’s a better than 50% improvement, or twice as good.  Again, that’s simple math.

Four years ago the finance sector and Wall Street were able to run roughshod over our mortgages and pensions, thanks to a GOP deregulation mania that removed protections put into place as a result of the Great Depression, and a concerted lack of funding to enforce the regulations that existed. We have survived (maybe) the Great Recession that resulted, and today, against all odds, we have the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau, which is already successfully cracking down on such practices and punishing those who steal from working Americans. All despite incredible opposition from Wall St. and the GOP, who have vowed to dismantle it as soon as they are done with the EPA and FDA and Federal Reserve.

Four years ago the auto industry, and all of the suppliers (think glass, steel, plastic, nuts and bolts, wires, tires, stereos, electronics, upholstery) who depend on the auto industry, were on death’s door, and Osama Bin Laden was laughing at America while training and sending others to kill more of us.

Today, the auto industry is well on the road to recovery, the suppliers are still in business, and Bin Laden sleeps with the fishes. I’ll take that one any day.

Compared to 4 years ago, only the factually challenged can deny that we’re not better off today as a Country. Despite the challenges of what he inherited from his predecessor, and a Congress who said little but “NO”,  the President has made remarkable progress.

In the States, however, there is little doubt that most are NOT better off than 4 years ago. Overwhelmingly, the self-imposed austerity measures from both Congress and the GOP Governors have resulted in lay-offs at the county and municipal levels, primarily in public schools where bus routes have been shut down, sports teams dismantled, and students go without books for lack of enough to go around. Teachers, police and fire services have all taken personnel cuts.

The Recovery Act was meant to spur the economy,  in large part by helping the States meet their obligations to us peeps and our families. The GOP Congress made sure there wasn’t enough money to do the job.

Then the GOP Governors refused to take what money was offered, choosing instead to blame Unions and the poor for budget shortfalls, and firing teachers and cops to make their point.

Then they declared the President and the Recovery Act a failure for not helping the economy.

Why would they do that? Their  #1 stated goal of making the current President a one-term guy.  We thought their #1 goal was to run the Country, and not off the cliff, thank-you very much!

But wait a minute… we elect these people to run the Country, not to do the work of their Party, not to make sure that the President, (this President in particular), gets no credit for helping America. But not helping an America in crisis, for any reason, is by definition, not running the Country.

Nor is ignoring an America in crisis patriotic, as some would have us believe. Rather, I submit that it’s treason against their oath to the Constitution, as is holding their oath to the non-elected Grover Norquist and his teenage wet dream above their duty to America.

How many of us working people without car elevators would last on a job with that kind of performance, that level of dereliction of duty?  The answer is obvious… we lose our jobs for much less.

So should they.

We the People hold the key, and it’s in the voting booth. The president has been saying “Here’s how we can make things better for everybody”, and the GOP responds with “NO, Nobody gets help but the rich and the Corporate, and NOT from you”. Behind closed doors their candidate says nobody deserves help but the rich and corporate. Now think about that for second…

It’s no surprise then that the GOP is into voter suppression the way football fans are into workplace pools and tailgating. Not enough Americans benefit from GOP policies for them to win anything fairly.  Most Americans suffer from their policies, so will not vote for them. The only way for them to win is to go back to Jim Crow laws to suppress those people, the non-rich and non-corporate of color, from voting…

… and to scare the rest of us with lies.

How un-American is that?  











Self Borked

According to the Oxford English Dictionary: bork (verb) “To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way.”

I’d add …”as a result of the public discovering (a persons) real views.”

Once upon a time in the 70’s, there was a Judge named Robert Bork.  He was number three in rank in the office of the U.S.  Attorney General. Watergate was going on at the time, and when the Special Prosecutor the president appointed insisted on listening to tapes of conversations that the President had, the president ordered him fired. The Attorney General knew it was wrong and probably illegal (it was), so he resigned, as did his second in command. Judge Bork became acting Attorney General, and followed the President’s orders. It was called the Saturday Night Massacre.

By 1980 all that had died down. Ronald Reagan was sufficiently impressed by Judge Bork’s conservative credentials and service to the Party that he nominated him to the Supreme Court.

Talk about an uproar…

Here’s what Senator Ted Kennedy had to say on the floor of the Senate about Judge Bork’s views:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy … President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.

That came about because the originalist interpretation of the Constitution held by Judge Bork ran counter to the sensibilities of modern society in the latter fifth of the 20th century.

Just as they should here in the first fifth of the 21st century.

Among his beliefs, he opposed broad protections of free speech, he questioned rights to privacy, he opposed racially integrating public facilities, and he did not believe that the Constitution guaranteed equal rights to women and people of color. He vowed to vote to overturn Roe v Wade and several other landmark civil rights decisions.

Originalists are like that. Judge Bork mentored Justice Scalia, also an originalist, who believes that we don’t have a guarantee to privacy in the Constitution, nor should we expect that our movements won’t be electronically tracked without a warrant as long as authorities don’t touch our cars to do so.

Justice Scalia did a better job of soft pedaling his thoughts, as Judge Bork’s nomination failed by the widest margin of any in history.

He is now Chairman of Mitt Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee, and Romney’s stated choice for a Supreme Court Justice. Now think about that for a second…

Which brings us back to the definition of bork (verb).

What happened to Judge Bork may have been tainted by Watergate, but that’s hard to believe, as justice triumphed on that one years earlier, and it was known that Bork may well have been just caught between a rock and a hard place.

I think what happened to Judge Bork is that his ultra conservative, originalist views were just 30 years ahead of his time (and 100 years late). His judicial beliefs didn’t fit into an age of race and age and gender equality, of societal progress after 40 years of doldrums.

Those beliefs didn’t fit in, and they did him in as a result.

In Boca Raton, Mitt Romney showed his beliefs about the rest of us who don’t own car elevators.  Those beliefs don’t fit in today either, and thanks to the faceless man who fills their water, he’s borked his own self.






Without a Net

There’s an interesting notion that ‘our children’ cannot afford our present ‘safety net’ promises to take care of our seniors and impoverished, of providing adequate education and nutrition in our schools, and of ensuring that the foods we eat and the products we use are not tainted with poison.  We’re told that in order to progress, a little rape of the earth and ourselves with toxic by-products is a necessary thing.

My Dad used to like to point out that physicians used to come by the house, and hospitals were “where you went for surgery, not to die”. “Nowadays”, he’d say, “more people die in hospitals than die anywhere else”, with the implication that hospitals were killing people. When he was growing up in the 1930’s, most people couldn’t afford to go to hospitals, and many of the doctors who made house calls were paid not in legal tender but in goods or services, whatever the family had or grew that could be used as a payment. Ask any old country Doc, many times payment was made in chickens, or greens, not greenbacks.

Parents who lived too long moved in with their children once they were unable to care for themselves. In a single wage earner world that was hard enough. In a two wage earner household it became impossible. Nursing homes boomed. Medicaid boomed as a result. Most Americans do not realize that the majority of Medicaid recipients are our parents and grandparents in nursing homes. End Medicaid, and they’ll have nowhere to go but back to their children. The dominoes of real costs to our children start accumulating from there.

Before the ‘safety net’, what we consider today to be relatively simple maladies resulted in yesteryear’s deaths.

Expectant mothers received no prenatal care, deaths during childbirth, of mother or child, or both, were not uncommon.

Children died of measles and whooping cough.

Grandparents succumbed to colds that resulted in simple pneumonias that, left untreated, ended their lives prematurely.

Working fathers were subject to job conditions that directly impacted their health and lifespan… black lung, cotton lung, asbestosis…  all easily preventable, yet they took thousands of lives in the 20th century.  Items like hard hats and steel-toed may shoes seem like a no-brainer on a construction site, yet thousands of workers have lost fingers, toes, eyes, arms, legs, and lives to worksite hazards.

Since the safety net, the data is clear: maternal and infant mortality and job related disability and deaths were all much higher in my father’s day. Average life expectancy was much lower as a result.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP, think of it as the wage of the USA), median family income, personal education level, and pretty much all of economic indicators are much higher today than in my father’s time. And so is life expectancy.

What has made the difference?

It’s been Government.

It’s been government-sponsored education for all.

It’s been government programs, demanded by the public, that protect us from toxic substances in our food and water.

It’s been government programs, demanded by the public, that protect us from the diseases that ended our grandparents lives prematurely.

It’s been a social conscience that realized that health and welfare trump profit at any cost, and that productivity and innovation are greater when the workforce is educated and healthy.

While this may seem to many to be progress, Businesses and the GOP fought, and continue to fight, advances that bring benefit to the common worker and their families.  Their argument? The regulations are unnecessary. The costs are too high. Regulations kill jobs. Accidents happen. It’s nobody’s fault.


As I said, the data is clear: Since implementing these social policies, these entitlements, these (pick your term), the U.S. has experienced the greatest period of growth and prosperity, both nationally and individually, than in any other period in our history. Think about that for a second…

The safety net could hardly have been bad for business,  bad for the economy, or bad for profits (well, except to those math deniers out there). And while living longer, healthier lives with less disease may not be necessary, I think we can all agree that it goes an awful long way to contributing to the Pursuit of Happiness.

And that’s one of our inalienable Rights.

But there’s a group that wants us to think that the safety net is a bad thing. They want us to think that the regulations preventing our food from containing poison are bad for the food industry and the reason we have high unemployment. They want to do away with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that prevents profit driven business practices from poisoning us and our unborn children.

They want us to think that regulations ensuring that workplaces are safe for workers are the reason unemployment is so high. They want to turn back the clock to ‘the good ol’ days’ when Business made the rules, and the One Rule was profit above everything.

They want to do away with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which makes sure that our cough syrup isn’t snake oil and our tomatoes aren’t covered in e.coli or flesh eating bacteria.

They want to do away with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that requires safe workplaces for us. They want to do away with the rules and inspectors that ensure safe and accepted procedures and protocols are followed when working in the Gulf of Mexico, or the gas fields of Pennsylvania, or the mines of West Virginia.

Despite their record otherwise, they want us to believe that Companies will conduct themselves safely, on their own recognizance, without any oversight.  Because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.

Who here can think of a mining disaster that didn’t involve a company with a long history of documented safety abuses? I didn’t think so.

Who here remembers that BP took shortcuts to meet profit deadlines, resulting in an ‘accidental’ dumping of millions of barrels of oil on our shrimp and grouper and sport fishing fields.  Is it any wonder that the gas and oil industry has pumped millions of dollars into ads to defeat President Obama, who insisted that BP pay for their damage done.  The other Party apologized to BP for the treatment they were getting after so many of us lost our jobs and livelihood during the cleanup, calling the fines and mandated cleanup fund the ‘real tragedy’. (1)

They want us to think that Medicare and Social Security are ‘nanny state’ entitlements, and that real Americans take care of themselves, by themselves. Any infirmity should be dealt with by picking oneself up by the bootstraps, not looking for a government handout. Craig T. Nelson, of Coach fame, says it all when he complained about people looking for help from the government. “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No.” (2)

They want us to think that health care is a privilege reserved only for those wealthy enough to pay. The simple fact that public health ended the polio epidemic, the scourges of pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus, childhood deaths from measles, and a range of maladies from rickets to scurvy do not deter efforts to disband public health in the name of abstinence education and protection of the unborn.

They attack public health, telling us that vaccinations cause cancer and autism, when in fact it’s industrial toxins that are linked most closely to cancer (a list too long to, well, list) and increasingly implicated in Autism. (3)

Despite all evidence to the contrary, they want us to go back to the days when health care was a privilege of the wealthy.

Why? Because healthy people are more capable of learning. Because educated people make informed decisions. Because informed decisions lead to voting one’s own interests. Because there are way more of us (99%) than there are the wealthy (1%). Because wealthy interests rarely cross over to the rest of us. Trickle down has been tried and repeatedly shown to be a marketing gimmick.

They have vowed to disband public health and public education and public protections from industry, including (especially) Wall Street. Not to make the Country better, or to save our children’s future, but because they believe that by virtue of their wealth and station in life that they are better than the rest of us.

You can’t get more un-American than that.


(1) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20008020-503544.html

(2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTwpBLzxe4U&noredirect=1

(3) http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/phthalates-bpa-linked-to-atypical-child-behavior

A Sad Day in Benghazi

My heart aches today for Ambassador Stevens and the Marines who died in Benghazi, Libya.  They were over there in the sand, away from family and friends, doing the work of Our Country, a bigger, nobler job than most of us will ever have. They deserve our gratitude and our utmost respect, neither of which can ever make up for their sacrifice.

The people in Libya who were responsible will get theirs, of that I am sure. What goes around, comes around, and we have a pretty good record of coming around.

The other people responsible for this tragedy… unfortunately, I don’t see them being held accountable. They’re the people who bankrolled the film, made the film (evidently, by lying to the cast about what it was about), and then released it to the public. There’s no way, on our mutual God’s green earth, that I’ll ever believe that this group of Jewish financiers didn’t think it might inflame the Arab world.

I’m not picking on Jews, Baptist preacher and hate monger Terry Jones did the same thing when he threatened to publicly burn a copy of the Koran. He weighed in today on the movie:

“The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Muhammad that are possibly not widely known. […] The fruits of the religion speak for themselves. For example the recent outbreak of violence and deaths is not because of the film, it is not because of the activities that we have done and that we will continue to do. These types of violent activities must be totally rejected. These people must be held accountable.” (1)

Not intended to insult the Muslim community?  I call BULL %$#@!  on that one.  I haven’t seen the movie, or the trailers. I don’t expect to, as I don’t watch trash.

Evidently, it shows Muhammad frequently womanizing, having sex, and into pedophilia and massacres. It sounds like Caligula.  And it’s not intended to insult the Muslim community? Really? What world can they be living on?

Change ‘Muhammad’ to ‘Jesus’ and imagine how that depiction of Christ in a movie would make Christians feel, especially if non-Christians did it.

Change ‘Muhammad’ to ‘Moses’ and imagine how Jews might feel if the Muslims released it.

Mel Gibson made a movie about Jesus that had none of those things in it, and he still hasn’t lived it down.

I can agree with Terry Jones that the people responsible must be held accountable. I just see more people than he does, as he sees just the Islamic ones.

As it turns out, it may not have been the rioters who did the deed, but another group that had been planning an attack for some time. Whether the riot was the cause, or a convenient diversion for others, there’s no doubt that the movie created the spark.

I know that Christian nations wouldn’t turn into riotous mobs if Muslims made a movie showing Jesus to be … whatever.  Then again, Turkey,  Yugoslavia, The UK, Germany, the good ol’ USA… all have a recent history of Christian intolerance of other religions.

Our (the US) official view is that we never support putting down other religions, but that violence is never an acceptable solution. In other words, the Muslims should chill and take it with grain and stop rioting. I wish they would too.

But you know what, as people are different, Religions are different. They’re not going to have the same rules, or act the same way, nor should they.

To survive in nature, you have to know how to interact with anything that you might encounter. Look a bear! Is it a grizzly bear, or a florida black bear?  BIG difference. Look, a snake! Is it a garter snake that eats vermin, or is it a water moccasin that will strike because I looked at it wrong? Again, BIG difference.

We’ve learned what animals are naturally docile, and which seem eager not to be. The prudent treat them differently. The Indigo Girls sang “the snake will always bite the hand that feeds it”.  You can’t change a leopard’s spots, and you can’t domesticate snakes. They are what they are, and we have to recognize that to co-exist with them. Expecting a cottonmouth not to bite you just because you tossed it a frog is just insane.

I believe that Catholics and Protestants and Baptists and Mormons and Muslims and Jews are what they are. The different religions exist because of the differences in people around the world. Like people, each religion is different in personality and temperament. It’s worth remembering that all worship the same God.

Muslims are hot-blooded when it comes to defending their faith. That’s who they are. They’ve learned that in the Netherlands, where newspapers published cartoons of Muhammad that led to riots, burnings, and deaths. Salman Rushdie learned it, having had to live for 10 years underground, with a death sentence on his head for writing a book; Theo van Gogh learned it the hard way. He was killed for making a film criticizing how Muslims treat women.

Terry Jones knew it, and played it up. Rather than lighting up a Koran during a Sunday morning sermon, or at a Wednesday prayer meeting, he announced ahead of time and made sure there was plenty of press and plenty of furor.  It was easy for him, in the safety of redneck Florida, to rouse up the Arabs by attacking their Bible.

For our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers and nieces and nephews serving around the world… not so much.

We don’t need to look at Muslims as right or wrong, or even agree with them, but we do have to recognize their nature in order to co-exist.

If co-existence is the goal, of course. Which brings us back to the financiers and the guy who made the movie. Like Terry Jones, they knew full well what result this movie would create. What they’ve done is more than the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. They’ve knowingly roused the people outside the theater to burn it down with people inside. That’s murder in my book, plain and simple, and it cries out for accountability.

I’m all for free speech. I believe in freedom of artful expression.  Neither should cover what these guys did, because what they did was purposefully hateful and dangerous to others as a result. They should be prosecuted.

Here in the USA, we should be all about freedom to practice religion, or not, without having to fit into a mold. That’s an even bigger thing than our gun fixation (1st Amendment, vs 2nd). It’s a big reason why many of our forebears left everything they knew and came to these shores.

What that means is that we have to respect others that practice their religion as well. That shouldn’t be a stretch, especially for Christians who have read what Jesus had to say about fighting and getting along with one another.

I think that we can all agree that making fun of someone else’s Prophet or Messiah or Buddha or Incarnation or other-planetary Being… is just asking for a fight. More importantly, it shows no respect, and it is frankly, by definition (there’s that pesky 1st Amendment again) un-American.

May God keep Ambassador Stevens and his team and their families close in His arms. They deserve it.

Source: The Art of Sadness

(Source: TheArtofSadness.tumblr.com)


(1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/j-christopher-stevens-     ambassador-to-libya-killed_n_1876544.html#91_terry-jones-responds-to-libya-attacks-film-controversy