Archives for: September 2009
Conservative Christians rally in Washington this weekend. They believe themselves and their pronouncements to be firmly rooted in the Bible. Lower taxes on the wealthy, opposition to the science of climate change, and even military strategy are said to be endorsed by Jesus. God loves you and joins in your hatred of Obama, Government, and Gays.
Part of it comes from upbringing. When one is told from childhood that something is so, it takes a rare courage to challenge it later in life. It is easy to think it comes from God. Mark Twain wrote of his mother:
...compassionate as she was, I think she was not conscious that slavery was a bald, grotesque, and unwarrantable usurpation. She had never heard it assailed in any pulpit, but had heard it defended and sanctified in a thousand; her ears were familiar with Bible texts that approved it, but if there were any that disapproved it they had not been quoted by her pastors; as far as her experience went, the wise and the good and the holy were unanimous in the conviction that slavery was right, righteous, sacred, the peculiar pet of the Deity, and a condition which the slave himself ought to be daily and nightly thankful for.
The right has long recognized the utility of conflating personal politics with the Will-Of-God. The effect has been amplified by technology. Cable stations frequently present bigots as representatives of our faith. This delights conservatives and repels good people who are tempted to believe such presentations. While studies show America becoming more spiritual, worship attendance shrinks. This emotional reaction also has its roots. Frederick Douglass, ex-slave and eventual friend of Abraham Lincoln:
The church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors ... They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings...
The practice of self-congratulatory belief has become a tradition. In 1928, Will Rogers reacted to the GOP anointing itself as the Party of God. "If the Lord can see His way clear to bless the Republican Party the way it's been carrying on, then the rest of us ought to get it without even asking."
There are signs that more Christians are turning away from the preachings of political bigotry. If those now outside the walls see that they can of toss out the hatred, but grasp the message of Jesus, fellowship may grow again.
Feminism has wreaked havoc on marriage, women, children and men. It is time to redress the disorder it has wrought and that must start with getting the principles and ideals for a new "masculinism" right. Such a "masculinism" will have its dovetailing counterpart in a new "feminism" for they mutually define each other and, in nature, are meant to be complementary.
- - Conservative Christian Value Voters, September 19, 2009
Summary, panel discussion topic, THE NEW MASCULINITY
Nuggets of internet gold:
A favorite conservative, James Wigderson is excited about an appearance tomorrow by Michelle Malkin. James, ever the gentleman, does not identify Malkin as the pundit who published driving directions to the home of a pair of injured children she didn't like. Fortunately, I am seldom accused of being a gentleman.
The World of Doorman-Priest laments his being saddled in class with a pair of very trying kids. Will they grow up to be conservatives?
- Bryan Lee Peterson at Johnny No One: I Hope You’re Happy has some pithy observations about health care denial.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for someone in pain. A lot of them out there this week, the next few could find any of us among them. Be careful out there.
As a matter of fact, just today I think, Michael, you said someone had put a report out that the first state that’s coming out of the recession is going to be the State of Texas. I told him, I said, ‘We’re in one?'
- - Texas Governor Rick Perry, September 17, 2009
It was decades ago. An older co-worker and I had become friends. He regaled me with stories of the not so distant past. It was a little like talking with a time traveler. Historical events are closer than we think.
He told me hysterical tales of live radio in the early days, before 10 second time delays or prerecorded shows. As a kid, he rarely missed one weekly children's broadcast. But he missed the day a storyteller at the end of a show thought his microphone was off. "That ought to hold the little bastards," my friend's childhood pals told him his hero had said on the air. He did hear a radio announcer once refer to the President of the United States as "Hoobert Heever." A broadcast based on Don Quixote came to a close as the narrator ran out of time. No problem. The show would continue the next day. The protagonist was riding on a donkey, which prompted the announcer to proclaim, "and so, until tomorrow, we leave Don Quixote, sitting on his ass." My older friend had a thousand tales.
Not all were about broadcasts. Some were about real life. He once closed his eyes and began talking about the old days of his youth. "You could get an entire meal for a dime," he said. He smiled, eyes still closed, thinking about it. "Problem was nobody had a dime."
He became emotional that afternoon. He remembered his father's shame as he told his family he was no longer employed. Loss of a job could be deadly. "People were at each others' throats." People migrated across the country, often told they weren't welcome. Old folks stood on street corners selling apples in order to survive. He told me about bodies occasionally found along lonely roads or in allies, having died of starvation.
When he spoke of FDR, it was with reverence. Years later, I was reminded of those stories as I heard about a Bill Clinton speech, before he became President, describing his grandfather's reaction to the New Deal. "He thought when he died, he'd go to Roosevelt." A funny line, with more than a grain of truth about many from those days, judging by my long since departed friend. Roosevelt was variously regarded as a traitor to his class, or more simply as "that man". But ordinary people loved him.
Social Security back then was considered radical. Herbert Hoover Republicans fought it tooth, nail, and claw. But old people began living longer. There was no comparable advance until after the murder of President Kennedy, when LBJ was able to galvanize the nation into passing Medicare, "Socialized Medicine," over the objections of conservatives.
I think of how my friend would regard those too young to have known real life-or-death economic fear. Some now say they would gladly give up Social Security or Medicare if it meant government would stay out of their lives. Such talk would puzzle and repulse the man I knew, the man who lived through those hardest of hard times.
Dr. Andrew Wilper is the lead Researcher of a Harvard Medical School Study
Conclusion: 45,000 Americans die each year because they lack Health Insurance
The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.
- - Dr. Andrew Wilper, September 17, 2009
We became friends, after a fashion, before he died. But this was a few years before that. He called my daughter and my adoptive kids all sorts of racial epithets. At first I was unclear just what had happened. It turned out he was seething at some horrible crime that had been covered on the evening news. Our kids were guilty of sharing the skin color of the perpetrators.
Hate crimes are a sad part of the history of the nation. And part of that comes from an us vs them mentality. A mental line is drawn. On the side are those who are different. Sometimes the difference is profound. Culture, background, values can play a part. Sometimes the differences are superficial, especially compared to the effects.
When crime is motivated by group hatred there is a different hue cast on what might otherwise be a more simple tragedy. Sometimes death is the result, as when a group of white high school football players beat an immigrant to death after he was seen with a white girl friend. They were cleared by a sympathetic jury. Occasionally, those roles are reversed, as young black toughs target some white victim.
Sometimes race is only a coincidence, as when OJ murdered his ex-wife in what looks to have been a jealous rage, only to be cleared in a hurry by admiring jury members. Some teens bully. Every once in a while race is a factor. An attack of a white student on a school bus near my home may have been racially motivated. So far, the evidence is against it. More likely, the lone white student was simply an inviting target, although the investigation is ongoing. The bullies were suspended along with several cheering students. Thankfully, some kids are reported to have intervened, helping the victim.
Public figures have also intervened, though their motives are not as altruistic. Rush Limbaugh insists the bullies represent the President of the United States, "...in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering..." Michelle Malkin, who once published driving directions to the home of children she did not like, kids recovering from a car accident, talks of the "Obama administration and tolerance for racial thuggery..."
We live in a world that is different in many ways from the one in which we grew up. The most outlandish propositions are now routinely accepted by a surprising number of folks who should know better. Bullies have always been with us. So has racism. But blaming the President for a school bus incident would never have occurred to us when I was a youngster. On the other hand, few expected we would live to see a black President.
Perhaps we should not be surprised by those who would attack all black folks, including the President, for a juvenile outrage. Limbaugh, Malkin, and others are not wrong about one thing.
Some bullies are motivated by race.
But good grief, Limbaugh is up to something wicked. He's plainly trying to rally white conservatives into thinking that now that we have a black president, blacks are rising up to attack white kids! Christ have mercy, what is wrong with these people?
- - Rod Dreher, Conservative Blogger, September 15, 2009
Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech inspired, not only because of his eloquence, but because of the commitment shown by his audience. Estimates put the size of the crowd between 250,000 and 400,000. It was a sort of benchmark ever since. The Mobilization against the War in Vietnam brought us together in Washington. Some who were there at both events said the anti-war effort was even larger.
Protesters are not the same as votes, however. President Nixon relied on what he termed the "great silent majority". He had a point. In a democracy, power is apportioned by who gets to the ballot box.
There were conservative protests this week. "Up to two million people marched to the U.S. Capitol today," proclaims a blog echoing others. Media put the figure at closer to 40,000. The difference is a factor of 50. Is it relevant? When President Nixon asked ordinary, non-protesting Americans to signal their support by flashing their headlights while driving, one protesting friend summed it up this way: "Cars for Nixon. People for Peace."
The source for conservative blogs traces back to the London Telegraph. Bloggers are mostly quoting each other, but a few who have researched it are citing Dan Bana of the National Park service as quoted in the Telegraph on "the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever."
It is valid to point out that popular support for the extreme right is not a majority, but there is something to be said for the intensity of feeling. The volume of voices measures mostly lung power, but the number of people who will get up and travel to the nation's capital does mean something more.
There turns out to be no such person as "Dan Bana." But that appears to be a minor typographical error. There is a David Barna who does indeed work for the National Park Service, and the quote itself is almost identical to what he actually said. He pointed out that the National Park Service does not conduct crowd estimates, but he does accept the estimate by the Washington Post of 1.8 million people. Let's face it. 1.8 million people is mightily impressive. They had to come from all over the country to Washington, a display of determination that cannot be ignored. The Washington Post is not to be considered a right wing publication. A reasonable person should be able to trust their very high estimate.
A preacher, my friend, often told me that a text out of context is a pretext. It was not terribly hard to locate the context in this case. In fact, Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly did a credible job.
David Barna said this: "It is a record. We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever." One problem: He was speaking of the Inauguration of Barack Obama as President on January 20 of this year. That was the 1.8 million. Turns out the small 40,000 number is all there was this month.
Burr has been drafted to help design a few improvements for FairAndUNbalanced. We have promised him a rapid return to writing his purple prose. He will be back tomorrow.
My nephew loved his grandfather, my dad, and thought of him as a fount of wisdom. One small example has stayed with me through the years. The youngster was having trouble sleeping. Random noises in the still night would alert his active mind and sleep would slip out of reach.
So my father introduced him to white noise, generated from a box designed for the purpose. It was static sounding, and it drowned out competing noises. In science, white noise is defined by a number of special attributes having to do with flat power spectral density, and other factors that go beyond my poor comprehension. I don't know if white noise was actually generated in the scientific sense, but whatever it was did the trick. Noises from the outside world were drowned out, and the young man was able to sleep.
After church yesterday, I drove my elderly friend to the retirement center, came home, kissed my loved one, and took a nap. As the jarring noise of the tea party protest blaring from the television woke me, I thought of the father I still miss and the help he gave to my nephew.
The signs carried by the protesters often expressed a vague outrage. Don't tread on me, join the Patriots, that sort of thing. Obama was targeted, of course. Stalin, Hitler, Obama comparisons were improbable but rife. Other protest placards were specific but ill-informed. They decried free health coverage for illegal immigrants, their carriers apparently unaware that proposals specifically exclude them. They attacked imaginary death panels, taxpayer funded abortion, and other myths.
Vague dissatisfaction and turn-on-its-head misinformation do not provoke this directed anger. Unless these folks are drunk or stone cold stupid, some other impulse is at play. Part of the answer is found in some uglier displays. Amid the confederate flags, were the real deal. The President is urged to go back to Africa and "Take your arrogant wife". "Where My White, privilege males at?", demands another. Obama is a Muslim Alien, and The zoo has an african lion and the White House has a lyin' African. A caricature of Obama in a green cap is captioned Robbin' for the hood.
Modern technology has expanded a wonderful gift that was once available for conservatives only on radio. They can now shield themselves from the cruel reality of electoral defeat through the internet site of their choice. Cable has a television channel devoted to denigrating Obama. The President is illegitimate. He is a hybrid of opposites, a socialist and a fascist. He is the other. America was duped. Above all, we have to take our country back. "We" being good Americans of the Bradley Schlozman tradition.
Rush, Hannity, and Beck offer a soothing static. Conservatives sleep on, surrounded by a cocoon of protection from the disturbing sounds of reality.
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.
- - Bertrand Russell, 1943
In the 1977 movie Star Wars, Obi-Wan and his runaways are stopped.
Stormtrooper: Let me see your identification.
Obi-Wan: [with a small hand wave] You don't need to see his identification.
Stormtrooper: We don't need to see his identification.
Obi-Wan: These aren't the droids you're looking for.
Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.
Some simple souls believe President Obama possesses Jedi mental powers. Their numbers are small. The most bizarre find voice with extremist websites. Here is part of a letter selected to appear on conservative site World Net Daily about "the mind-control diatribe called a presidential speech."
It is my opinion what Rep. Joe Wilson did and said was necessary. It was necessary for God to disrupt the demonic subliminal communication that manifests from Obama and his entourage and shake the 111th United States Congress from their complacency (and probable altered states of consciousness).
To me, it gave new meaning to: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'" And I do believe that in the moment "You lie!" came forth from Wilson's mouth, judgment was declared upon the chosen man, the pawn who constitutionally should not be the president of the United States.
Such odd people are not confined to conspiracy outlets. Man-bites-dog is news. Mainstream media present them as speaking for Christianity. Christ's message is reduced to bitter hatred and superstitious gullibility. Worship attendance has declined as folks turn away from intolerance.
The downward trend may be reversing. One study discovered an increasing rejection of such messages by young believers. Young evangelicals were about equally divided between the two major presidential candidates last year. Now we just need to get the word out.
Obi-Wan: Move along.
Stormtrooper: Move along... move along.
I have made two big decisions tonight. We are killing the health care bill and we we are killing the mouse in the office.
— - Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), via Twitter, September 9, 2009
Nuggets of internet gold:
Favorite conservative Wigderson Library & Pub who occasionally graces us with a comment or two offers a tautology against abortion. It is wrong because human life begins at conception. So he's right because he's right. He offers summer fiction as evidence.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST has unkind words for baby boomers. Charges include "irresponsibility, gluttony, insensitivity, greed, murder, self-indulgence, and short-sightedness."
- The World of Doorman-Priest has a cool message. God's Kingdom does not come passively, yet cannot be earned.
When I was on my way to the podium a gentleman stopped me and said I was as good a politician as I was an actor. What a cheap shot!
- - Arnold Schwarzenegger, at GOP Convention, August 31, 2004
It was decades ago. An elderly relative, one I love dearly, bemoaned a lost check from the Social Security administration. What would she do now?
Her husband was easier to take in small doses. He sat sullenly as she came close to tears. I reassured her. If the check was lost, it would quickly be reissued. If it had been stolen and cashed, the government would replace it. But, in addition, authorities would be very interested in finding and prosecuting the thief. It would not be difficult to trace the culprit. And penalties would probably involve jail time. Her hard-to-take husband jumped to his feet, the captive of sudden rage. How dare I threaten him with jail ! ! !
The public reaction to President Obama is overwhelmingly positive, or so it appears. Partly this can be attributed to the eloquence that is the enduring characteristic of this leader. In part it was recognition of the need for some solution to a growing problem. One factor is the image that Republicans presented to the nation. They began by doing what out parties usually do. They sat on their hands through obvious applause lines. But they became surly as the President chastised those who would tell what he quite plainly termed lies in place of debate. He did not name names. He did not even specify that those who were less than honest were from the opposing party.
Like the dishonest husband, their increasingly bellicose reaction identified them. The President spoke of scare tactics and lies. There were scattered boos. President Obama spoke of "a blizzard of charges and counter charges." There was audible grumbling. Obama mentioned those who believe "it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it." Catcalls followed. One Republican made it a point to examine his blackberry in a show of boredom.
Then the logical extreme, the reductio ad absurdum, finally shocked even Republicans into a momentary silence. As Obama accurately pointed out that illegal immigrants would not be covered, a single shrill voice screamed out over the rest. "YOU LIE." This was too much even for the rabid shouters that the Congressional GOP has become. The President gazed sternly, the heckling came to an embarrassed silence, and he calmly continued.
The shouter who humiliated his colleagues with that final excess was Joe Wilson of South Carolina. It was a breakthrough moment. Republicans seemed overcome by the sudden realization that every crudity had been captured by television. The vague and indistinguishable town hall dissatisfaction suddenly acquired a recognizable political identity. The television audience saw a calm and commanding leader confront an unruly mob of political opponents and stare that mob into submission. Republican leaders ordered Wilson to apologize. He privately obeyed, but it's not so easy to put toothpaste back in the tube.
Democrats rally. Republicans are despondent. And Joe Wilson is a gift of an ever generous God, from whom all blessings flow, to President Obama.
We all make mistakes.
- - President Barack Obama, September 10, 2009
George Will is right. Wellll... he's partly right. To complain about "obscene" profits in the insurance field, says Will, is to be factually wrong. He cites Standard & Poor's index to show their margin is actually low. His analysis is flawed on a number of counts. Their profits compared with income flow is small, simply because that flow is huge. Comparing profits with current stock prices reflects an anticipation of steeper future profits. But he is right in this sense. Profit is the point of business. In most areas, it works pretty well. Greed is an inadequate description of the profit urge. It is a constant, unrelenting pressure. And it usually works to our benefit.
A grocery store owner works harder to provide good quality at a reasonable price because he is pressured for profit. Everyone wants your business, and they work hard to get it. If a grocer starts to gouge his customers, they will take their business elsewhere. He doesn't want that to happen, so he keeps his prices low to keep the business coming. Same with shoes, tires, soft drinks, and living room carpets.
There are inefficiencies in the marketplace. Investors know them by another name: opportunity. Investors make money by exploiting the inefficiencies left by others, and, coincidentally, correcting those inefficiencies. Are computers selling for prices not justified by the market? Quick, build and sell at a more reasonable price before everyone else notices!
Insurance works differently. That is not because insurance managers are evil, while everyone else is virtuous. It is simply because insurance corporations make money the same way as other businesses, but with different effect.
Insurance is paid up front. Folks pay a fixed few hundred a month to eliminate the small but real chance they will be financially wiped out by a medical catastrophe. When illness or injury hits, corporations experience no profit in keeping the customer they once had fought for. Even a minor change in health makes a customer worth getting rid of, not keeping.
Insurance companies, pressured to increase profits, have the same incentives that impel any business. They can boost income or slash outflow. Slashing is done by denying claims, cutting off customers who might get sick, and denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. Corporations throw away up to 20% of their customers, customers who thought they had a firm contract. It gets even worse. The majority of medical bankruptcies are folks who thought they had insurance.
If that makes you mad, if you think it's unfair, don't waste your anger on insurance executives. They are doing what they are supposed to do. Get mad at a perverse system that offers irresistible pressure to hurt those who need help and exploit those who are still healthy.
Leave alone the executives and the cute little exotic green reptiles that advertise for them. They do what we pay them to do. But scream for reform.
And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly -- by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.
Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people; they do it because it's profitable.
- - President Barack Obama to Congress, September 9, 2009