Archives for: February 2010
Nuggets of internet gold:
Conservative James Wigderson advocates regional cooperation for the sake of water supply in Southeastern Wisconsin. Next thing, we'll find a conservative or two thinking government can offer a benefit or two.
Conservative Chuck Thinks Right slams Joe Biden for saying that pulling troops out of Iraq in a way that leaves Iraq stable would be a great achievement. Point being, it seems, that Democrats should want Iraq to fall.
- Slant Right's John Houk is not alarmed by China's economic resurgence. I feel better already.
Driving on ice. Let's be REAL careful out there.
For all the barbarism of the ancient world, with unapologetic slavery, warriors forced to fight to the death for the sake of entertainment, the casual brutality of crucifixion, there exists surprisingly little evidence of racism.
Romans conquered much of the known world, and expressed superiority over pretty much everyone. There was extreme national chauvinism, to be sure.
There was plenty of hatred. The Old Testament is characterized by a degree of ethnic enmity that is striking. The 137th Psalm is a song of captivity that ends with a wish about smashing infants against rocks. We do find occasional acknowledgment of race. Jeremiah mentions the skin color of Ethiopians as an example of the unchangeable. But such references were rare and, when made, were usually without assertions of superiority.
Racism became the primary belief system in western culture in the 1600s. It corresponded with a new notion that there was something innately wrong with slavery. The idea that ownership of human beings was an evil practice collided with the economic benefits many rich folks enjoyed as a result of owning African captives. Injustice was not tolerable, but riches were not to be given up easily. So slavery was justified with a new idea: slaves were not really human, at least not to the extent of their owners.
Attitudes die hard. The end of slavery did not end the justification. Racism survives. But in the 1960s segregation became intellectually disreputable. President Kennedy had a lot to do with that. Over time, racism became much more covert. There has been undeniable progress.
People are no longer comfortable with racial prejudice. This has resulted in treatment of others that is generally much more fair. Overt discrimination is not simply illegal, in most instances, it is frowned upon.
The lack of respect folks feel toward racists has also resulted in a culture of denial, even when racism is obvious. We have a long way to go.
A few black folks have prospered by assisting in that denial. Jimmy Carter made an easily verifiable observation that much antagonism toward President Obama is racially based. Michael Steele's response was to attack, not racism, but "Blind charges of racism, where none exists..."
What many of us have seen as continuous buffoonery has resulted in criticism of Steele himself. His reaction has been this: "I don't see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is the chairman?"
Steele is not convincing. He would be well advised to continue practicing in front of the mirror, attacking blind charges of racism.
When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds.
- - President Jimmy Carter, September 16, 2009
"No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
The speaker was Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said the question was not whether the policy would change but how the armed forces would prepare.
It was largely the same issue that tripped up the last new Democratic President, Bill Clinton. The public simply could not understand why the new President was investing his efforts to expanding the rights of an unpopular minority of sexual deviants when he had promised to "focus like a laser beam" on economic problems. The military, led by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, were against the move.
Republicans were gleeful in 1993, and gay bashing was the order of the day. Republicans still play to their base. A few years ago, Senator John McCain told a group of students, "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." But now, he is against moves even to study the issue, no matter what military leaders say.
The turnaround in less than a generation has been remarkable. Today, 57 percent of American voters say gays should serve openly. Only 36 percent oppose it. All income groups, all age groups, all ethnic groups, both men and women, support changing the policy. Republicans oppose it, although by a much narrower margin than in years past. Literalist Christians, misguided souls that they are, oppose it as well.
Senator McCain, in backing away from his earlier commitment to follow the advice of military leaders, invoked a popular former leader. The "reason why I supported the policy to start with is because General Colin Powell, who was then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the one that strongly recommended we adopt this policy in the Clinton administration. I have not heard General Powell or any of the other military leaders reverse their position." The very next day, Colin Powell publicly disagreed with Senator McCain, explaining "attitudes and circumstances have changed." McCain now opposes change because of ... well ... nothing at all.
Change comes at a cost. In this case the primary cost is to gays, who still have only partial rights. Partial rights are, to be sure, better than no rights. Marriage equality will eventually be accepted by the public as well. More important, full acceptance of people as they are is gaining ground. While rejoicing is not justified, quiet encouragement is. The road is long, but America is on the road.
Now, here's what's next. NAMBLA members, same-sex marriages. Are chaplains in the US military going to be required to perform those kinds of rituals? Do they get government housing?
- - Oliver North, February 4, 2010
The modern beacon of contemporary conservative thought established by the late William F. Buckley (his own self), the National Review, has a blog called The Corner. Last week, Andrew McCarthy joined those who accuse Obama of being soft on terrorism. At issue is a fact sheet that tells us that 300 terrorists are behind bars. McCarthy picks at it: "Note first the slippery use of the word 'suspect.' All this means is that a person was suspected of being a terrorist at some point in the course of an investigation."
The passage incensing Mr. McCarthy: "Hundreds of terrorism suspects have been successfully prosecuted in federal court since 9/11. Today, there are more than 300 international or domestic terrorists incarcerated in U.S. federal prison facilities." The italics are his.
Well, let's see. If terrorism suspects are successfully prosecuted, that does put them into another category than suspected "at some point in the course of an investigation," does it not? And since 9/11 might mean that some large fraction of those 300 might have been caught and incarcerated during the Bush administration, right? Stay with me here.
So if the previous administration used some different figure and the Obama folks are now inflating figures, McCarthy might have a point. As it turns out, President Bush did use an earlier version of the same data on September 10, 2003: "More than 260 suspected terrorists have been charged in the United States courts; more than 140 have already been convicted."
The irritation to McCarthy is that in both the Bush/Cheney administration and in today's justice system, law enforcement has had significant success in putting away terrorists. That success has involved investigation, homework, and legal prosecution. McCarthy is furious.
The Obama administration's success in turning al Qaeda on its ear is hard to dispute. Terrorist leaders are killed in accelerating numbers. That success has an unusual new measurement. Conservatives are reduced to arguing that Obama has been killing too many terrorists. It seems that when drones kill terrorists, they are no longer available for capture and torture.
Those captured in spite of the drones are convicted without torture, without extraordinary rendition. And they are cooperating. How has this happened? One factor is increased cooperation from Muslim populations worldwide. The other has been the expectation that when loved ones turn in folks they suspect might be involved in plans for violence, it is with a reasonable expectation that they will not be tortured.
The dramatic increase in the worldwide popularity of America is more than a beauty contest. With an international mood turning toward the US, more information about terrorists is developed. More terrorists are targeted. More of them die or are captured than with all the bluster conservatives can muster.
Since 2001, the Department has increased its capacity to investigate terrorism and has identified, disrupted, and dismantled terrorist cells operating in the United States. These efforts have resulted in the securing of 319 convictions or guilty pleas in terrorism or terrorism-related cases arising from investigations conducted primarily after September 11, 2001, and zero terrorist attacks on American soil by foreign nationals from 2003 through 2007.
- - Department of Justice under the Bush/Cheney Administration, 2008
Bush/Cheney budget proposal for 2009 submitted in 2008.
Former Republican White House spokeswoman Dana Perino and
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) accuse the Obama administration of using
fictitious figures, which turn out to have originated in the Bush
The President of the United States seemed more than a little upset at the tactics of obstruction used by opponents in the Senate. "A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible," he said. "The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action." The year was 1917 and Woodrow Wilson saw a few Senators block his popular idea of a peacefully settling of conflicts. The League of Nations might not stop all wars, but it could offer an alternative to those countries who did not want devastation.
The filibuster is recognized by policy wonks as a tool used generations ago by racists against anti-lynching bills. Laws that might slow the hanging of black people from trees for wanting to vote was thought to be an infringement on states rights and the freedom of white people. The filibuster is vaguely known by a wider circle of romanticists brought up on "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" as a parliamentary method of getting Senators to listen.
Most citizens do not want to be bothered by politics, and would rather have those they elect deal with the details of policy. They know only that they voted Democrats in, and Democrats are unable to get anything done.
In 1975, Republicans and Democrats teamed up to end the anti-civil-rights tactic of holding up Senate business. It took 67 votes in those days to end a filibuster and bring a measure to a vote. Senators Walter Mondale and James Pearson led the struggle, but they could not have gotten anywhere if the Vice President had not helped out. Nelson Rockefeller presided over the Senate. He ruled that the Senate's two thirds rule only took effect after a majority of Senators voted it into effect at the beginning of each Senate session. Segregationists had argued that once a rule was established by custom, it remained automatically unless changed. That would have allowed the racist minority to filibuster any effort to end the filibuster. It would be the problem interfering with its own solution.
But Alabama's James Allen tangled Senate into knots. At one point Allen had the Senate considering a motion to table a motion to reconsider a vote to table an appeal of a ruling that a point of order was not in order against a motion to table another point of order against a motion to bring to a vote the motion to call up the resolution that would institute the rules change. Rockefeller eventually stopped recognizing Allen. Anti-civil rights conservatives were furious. Eventually, Allen compromised. The filibuster would remain, but would be cut down from 67 votes to 60. Rockefeller apologized as part of the deal.
Since President Obama was elected, the filibuster is no longer used to block civil rights laws. It is used by Republicans to block ... well ... everything. Makes you wish Mondale, Pearson, and Rockefeller were still around.
As the President has noted recently, Democrats continue to hold large majorities in the House and Senate, which means they can attempt to pass a health care bill at any time through the reconciliation process. Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people.
- - John A. Boehner (R-H), House Minority Leader,
- - Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Republican Whip, February 8, 2010
In a Letter to the White House refusing to negotiate on Health Care
Reform unless President Obama commits to rejecting any majority votes
What do you do when you're the Democratic candidate for Governor of Illinois on the same ticket with a candidate that is completely unacceptable?
A generation ago, Adlai Stevenson III had just won the Democratic primary for governor. He had narrowly lost, in the opinion of some of us, in a stolen election 4 years earlier. Staffers for the opposing campaign were convicted of vote fraud. There was also evidence of vote counting machines skipping over punch card votes. This was 18 years before the Bush campaign organized mobs to intimidate registrars in Florida. This time, 1986, he was favored to win the general election.
But two Nazi-like extremists had managed to capture the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor. During the primary campaign, mainstream media had kept reporting that the traditional candidates for these positions were not opposed. Fact checking was about as prominent then as it is in what passes for journalism today. An underground movement of fanatics got the two nominated in a race most voters ignored as uncontested.
Stevenson refused to run on the same ticket as the two thugs. He formed a temporary party he called the Solidarity Party. Instead of winning, he got only 40% of the vote. He lost by doing the right thing.
This year, the successor to Governor Rod Blagojevich, who doubled as a comic-crook, Pat Quinn, faced a similar situation. A pawnbroker spent a load of money, money being the Supreme Court endorsed proxy for free speech, and got the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. It developed that a few years back, the fellow had been accused of holding a knife to a former live-in girlfriend's neck. The was just after a soon-to-be ex-wife accused him of violence and got a temporary order of protection.
Pat Quinn's solution may work out a lot better than the very honorable Adlai Stevenson. Rather than running as an independent, he was lucky enough to help convince the pawnbroker, accused batterer, to drop out. His official position was one of judicious neutrality. "I think he should come forward and tell us everything about his background. But anything dealing with that has to go through the [Democratic] state central committee. I want to see what Mr. Cohen has to say. I don't give opinions until I hear all the facts from the person involved." But he had to be hoping the fellow would jump off a very tall building into a glass of water.
Republicans are expected to use the scandal anyway. It's what they do. The pawnbroker's opponent is less than helpful. "We tried to warn the governor beforehand and they didn't want to listen to it."
It could be worse. It was a pawnbroker with an anger problem against women. It could have been Blagojevich.
It was not pay to play but sacrifice to serve. Rod Blagojevich wasn't possible in the old politics.
- - Former Senator Adlai Stevenson III (D-IL), April 9, 2009
Certainly I have a problem with the way some of my fundamentalist brethren distort other religions. Brit Hume goes on television to proclaim that Buddhism has no path to forgiveness or redemption. Slant Right's John Houk periodically directs Muslims on what it takes to be a true follower of Islam. Short version: become a terrorist. Houk protests that he is not a bigot, just because he hates all things Islamic. I am struck most by how fundamentalists manage to miss Christianity itself.
Bigotry against gays comes from many directions. Fundamentalists are especially fond of quoting Leviticus. Those passages contain a lot of shalt nots. Lobster is an abomination, as is crop rotation. Wearing two interwoven fabrics in the same shirt is a violation of God's will. But fundamentalists zero in on Leviticus 18:22 which prohibits homosexuality.
I find wisdom in Leviticus. It was written by men who were captives of the wisdom of their times, but it was inspired by God. Amid the outdated health instruction and ritual is an underlying theme that will always apply. Love God with everything you have. Love and take care of yourself. Love others. I read each chapter, and remember to take the various medications that keep me alive. I go to worship and try to keep in mind why I am there. My love for others is far from perfect, but I am growing. And I find this in Leviticus:
You see, the Bible, God's word, instructs me to devote time for prayer, witness for Jesus when I can, give blood, and always wear my seat belt.
Sentimental Favorite Wins
Nuggets of internet gold:
Ned Williams at WisdomIsVindicated likes much about Tea Partiers, but remains a skeptic. He then makes the mistake of quoting Charles Krauthammer. Ned may be the victim of some sort of self-confidence deficiency. He thinks more clearly and writes more skillfully than the fellow he quotes. So stop the pretense. I've read you off and on over the years, Krauthammer, and believe me, you're no Ned Williams.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST was moved by the Ed Show, broadcast from free health care clinic in Connecticut for the uninsured.
Slant Right's John Houk wise quotes George Friedman's newsletter, STRATFOR. I was entertained by an article Friedman wrote last year about Iran and Israel that basically said nothing much was about to happen. You have to admire someone who make an important sounding article out of move-along-nothing-here-to-see.
- David Everitt-Carlson of The Wild Wild East Dailies in Munich needs to travel to Amsterdam and will work for train fare. Beware automatic music on your PC speakers.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for those still in pain. A lot of them out there this week, the next few could find any of us among them.