The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion
- - Treaty of Tripoli, 1797
Signed by President John Adams
Ratified by Unanimous Vote of the United States Senate
Chuck Thinks Right finds a UN outrage that really is outrageous. Iran is on a women's rights committee. Chuck falsely says there was an election. Comes from a lazy reliance on Fox. Actually, there were no other takers from that region. The regional system is dumb, though, and the result is still real wrong.
- The Vigil's Vigilante wants Facebook to dampen violence by enforcing it's own rules.
The death of Republican J. Arthur Younger in 1967 left open his seat in Congress. The special election was thought to be almost a waste. A dynamic newcomer was unbeatable. Shirley Temple Black was America's sweetheart. She was the sweet tap dancing little girl that had helped get America through the depression. She was married to a World War II naval hero. And she was politically experienced, active in the GOP. She was also a conservative Republican in a district that had kept returning Younger to Congress since Hector was a pup. It was less an election than a coronation.
Her main challenger was another Republican. Pete McCloskey was a war hero in his own right. He had won the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts in Korea. This was back in the days when even conservatives respected military heroes, before "swiftboat" was a word, much less a verb. But he was beginning to question the conflict in Vietnam.
Still, he turned out to be quite the political figure. In policy debates and public appearances, he slowly turned the tide. His record, his craggy looks, and his gravelly voice posed a contrast to the often shrill persona of his unfortunate opponent. She slowly lost the bright shiny luster of cute movie stardom and began to appear as an uncaring elitist. The Lollipop sank. McCloskey won.
During the campaign, in those days before most of us had heard the word "sexism" she was, in part, its victim. During question periods, irate matrons would angrily demand to know who was at home taking care of her family. It had an impact. Everyone knew a woman's place.
My dad, in later times, told me of his years as a pastor. After reading Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, he wept. He was haunted by the vision of a woman he had counseled. She was depressed at being a housewife. He helped her find psychiatric treatment for her unnatural resistance to a woman's role in life. Like many of us in those days, he had not considered until much later the individual destructiveness of predominant social expectations. He learned. We all began to learn.
Almost all. Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reminded a military officer who had leaked some disagreement with US policy that the proper avenue was to go through channels, and take up such matters with the President. Republicans responded by urging him to put the Speaker "in her place." Instead, he seemed to take her advice to heart.
Last week, Ohio Republicans sent a mailing urging voters to put Democratic Congressional Representative Betty Sutton "out of the House and send her back to the kitchen," where they say she belongs.
Most folks no longer see kitchens as the purview of women. We can only hope that voters might relegate candidates with such views back to their own true calling. At the oven. Taking conservative joy in baking Hansel and Gretel.
I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.
- - Rich Lowry, conservative columnist, National Review, October 3, 2008
on why conservatives support policies articulated by Sarah Palin
It has gotten way too easy to be cynical about Republicans. At least for me. In the good old days, when figuring what political calculations might be motivating GOP office holders, we could usually at least give a passing glance at the possibility they were acting in good faith.
When John McCain conducted the most remarkably inept GOP presidential campaign in recent memory, we could speculate that, since he was undeniably a patriot, he simply loved his country too much to allow himself to become President. Okay, okay. That was slightly snide. Mea minima culpa.
Still, it is difficult to give credit, even where it is due. Last December, an emergency bill came before the Senate. It funded ammunition and equipment to help our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq defend themselves from attack. Republicans filibustered the funding, trying to keep it from coming to a vote.
Why would Republicans put our troops in danger? Did some sort of waste make supporting soldiers in battle secondary to lowering the burden on taxpayers? Was it a philosophical disagreement with our presence in those war torn lands? Was the equipment substandard? No, no, and no.
It is encouraging for those yearning for transparency in government. GOP Senators were quite open about wanting to hold back equipment for soldiers under fire. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) spoke for those voting against the troops. It was all about an unrelated issue. "I don't want health care."
The way he explained it, if US military personnel were endangered, Democrats would scramble to keep them alive. This might delay health care reform and keep Obama from a victory. These seem to be folks who will say or do anything, anything at all, for the sake of political advantage.
But now it turns out some Republicans are patriots. Several are angry at the Republican National Committee for tricking voters with phony letters designed like official census documents. "Official Document" is all over the outside, along with "Do Not Destroy." Republicans joined with Democrats in passing legislation to keep the RNC from sending those same fraudulent census letters. It was ... oh wow ... unanimous. Be still my bipartisan heart.
But the RNC says the rule doesn't really apply to their fake census mailings. You see, the law says putting the word "Census" on fund raising mail is not allowed. And "Census" is actually just visible through an envelope window. So the word is "in" it, not "on" it. Congress is working to close the loophole.
It's possible angry GOP officeholders realize that sending bogus census junk mail to Republicans over and over again might motivate them to throw away real census forms. The boy who cried wolf and all. And that would lower the count in conservative areas, giving Democrats an advantage in Congress.
Naw! It's patriotism. The sort that didn't apply to protecting US troops.
When it comes to the census there is no separation between Republicans and Democrats. Working together we thought we put an end to this deceptive practice. Unfortunately, the foolishness of the RNC to move forward with yet another deceptive mail piece has caused us to act again.
- - Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), April 28, 2010
It was 1967 and, for the first time, speculation arose about the future political trajectory of Ronald Reagan. Reagan had been an unexpected major player in promoting the unsuccessful candidacy of Barry Goldwater, and now he had just been elected Governor of California. The future looked bright.
Actor James Coburn was also having a good year. In 1967 he starred in a James Bond type spoof, a sequel to the successful Our Man Flynt of 1966. This one was called In Like Flynt. The world was innocent in matters of sexism. As Derek Flint, Coburn was the center of swooning women and the foiler of evil plots. The conspiracy included the kidnapping of the President and the substitution of a double, an actor. Told of the plan, a disbelieving Coburn says, "An actor as President?" The backhanded reference to the pretensions of the new Governor of California did not inhibit the political path of the future President. The movie was campy and well produced. The movie was considered good natured fun all the way around.
We can wonder how "An actor as President?" would be received today. Republicans have largely become a humorless lot, at least in my experience. Any perceived insult to the late President is not received at all well.
Now we have another possibility. Some conservatives lurch toward crazier conspiracy theories. The ambiguities of the Book of the Revelation of John allow the more superstitious of my Christian brethren to fear a Satanic plan to implant microchips into every forehead, or some other part of the human anatomy. State legislatures contemplate laws to outlaw nonconsensual implantation. Virginia's legislature has passed a bill. Wisconsin has it on the books. Satan and his minions are pure evil but are also, presumably, fastidious in following state regulation.
But the best conspiracy to my mind is an offshoot of the birther movement. This birthers see a plot originating back in the 1960s as a newly born baby, Barack Obama of Kenya, was smuggled into Hawaii to have his birth falsely recorded there. Two major newspapers, a hospital, and a bipartisan succession of Governors over more than 40 years joined to make the infant immigrant appear to be eligible to become leader of the free world. Arizona is considering a bill to require Obama to produce yet more evidence that he is not from a foreign land.
But you ain't seen nothing yet. J.D. Hayworth, who is trying to replace John McCain as Republican candidate for the US Senate is concerned about a worse possibility. Suppose the fellow in the White House is not really Barack Obama? He held a press conference last week. "We now require voters to offer proof that voters are who they say they are... If we're asking that of voters, shouldn't we ask candidates for every office on the ballot to be able to offer proof that they are who they say they are?"
This time, it is not an attempt at humor. "An actor as President?"
As I listened on my car radio, the interviewer reached a health care expert in Toronto, a severe critic of the Canadian system. The interviewer started the dialogue with a bit of conventional wisdom. On the one hand, she noted a series of horrific charges against the health care bill. On the other hand proponents said reform was needed. The truth, she concluded, would doubtlessly be found somewhere between the two extremes. The expert disagreed. That sort of logic, he said, tends to encourage extreme statements and discourages respect for truth.
Following the now famed televised confrontation between President Obama and an assembly of Republican legislators, an NPR analyst reviewed one brief exchange. A Senator had challenged the President, charging that costs to consumers would skyrocket as a result of reform. He quoted a study by the Congressional Budget Office to support his charge. President Obama knew a lot about that study and pretty much demonstrated that, in fact, it said the direct opposite of what the Senator alleged.
The analyst reviewed three major groups of premium payers and, with each, concluded that costs would go down: way down for most folks. Okay, so the President was not only right, he was way, way right. But the NPR analyst (after saying that everyone would get a cost break) concluded that both sides were "sort of" right. Both right? Sort of? The anchor summarized. "So answer is, it's complicated." The analyst agreed, "Exactly." Complicated?
ABC News is contemplating a fact checking part of This Week. Jake Tapper, who seems to practice actual journalism, pushed the idea. Other programs don't want to do anything so bold. Bob Schieffer of CBS says outside groups should do fact checking. "I kind of think that by the time we get around to fact-checking, we'd already be fact-checked." David Gregory of NBC is wary of the notion of challenging guests at all. He thinks viewers should have the responsibility of fact checking. "People can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms." Turns out I've had it wrong all these years, thinking that news organizations should ... you know ... report.
Cynics have suggested that interview programs are fearful of alienating potential guests if they challenge untruthful statements. I think it more likely that a he-said-she-said form of neutrality has taken over journalism. When one side is, with a straight face, insisting that up is down and left is right, reporting the facts is considered a form of bias.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan once pointed out that everyone is entitled to form an opinion. But nobody is entitled to make up their own facts. That was before timid shadows took over from truth tellers of the past.
Let the chips fall where they may. As long as they always fall directly between two sides.
I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire.
- - Winston Churchill, on floor of House of Commons, July 7, 1927
Nuclear terrorism began with what was thought to be a one shot deal, ending the Second World War. Hitler's Germany was defeated with der Führer taking his own life. The war in the Pacific was shrinking with the Japanese archipelago at the epicenter of a contracting military theater.
President Harry Truman was said to have been presented with the horrible math of war. Countless lives would be lost in continuing the conflict. Fewer lives would be lost from nuclear blasts. Dropping the new bomb would certainly take mainly civilian lives. The distinction between civilian and military lives was less formal then, but still a distinction. Truman took into consideration the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and the decision was made.
There is evidence Truman also wanted to deter Soviet expansionism. A demonstration of willingness to destroy large swaths of humanity might do the trick. It didn't. The Marshal Plan of helping war torn countries recover economically was more effective in containing the threat. Soviets simply did not believe that America would likely use mass killing against expansion unless, as with the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, the US was attacked directly. So the US arranged for that. After the USSR took over a buffer area around its borders, US troops were stationed in other threatened countries. Attacks on those troops would give the US a big reason for war.
But then the USSR got the bomb and both sides got missiles. Through the 1950s, the US and Soviets aimed ICBMs only at military targets. That seemed ethical. But in the early 1960s, Robert McNamara's defense department figured out that both sides targeting the military capabilities of the other produced an incentive to attack. If you launched first you might, with luck, knock out the other fellow's ability to retaliate. But if you were attacked, the other side's nuclear silos would be empty. Nothing to hit. So targets were shifted. US and Soviet targets shifted to population centers. If you attack us first, we'll respond by killing so much of your population you won't have a country left. It was called Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD.
But then something happened called ... well ... history. The USSR ceased to exist. Smaller countries have the bomb and many more work on it. Terrorists are going after unsecured nuclear piles. You can't count on deterrence when the weakest link, the least sane player, might break. MAD has become ... mad. So strategy went from bombing civilians, to holding our own troops hostage, to targeting nuclear silos, to targeting cities. All became outmoded.
A new treaty calls for limiting the spread of the bomb and securing nuclear facilities. The Russians and the US are each taking the cities of the other off the hit list. Both promise no first use of nuclear weapons against countries that sign and comply with a new treaty designed to reduce such weapons. That puts pressure on Iran and Korea. A new strategy for a new age.
Neanderthal conservatives, of course, object. They insist on remaining MAD.
Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.
- - "Buck" Turgidson, fictional US General, 1964
In Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Informing the President that a crazed US officer has initiated nuclear war
So Franklin Graham, noted for his hatred toward Islam, has been dis-invited to a Pentagon ceremony. President Bush established a national goal of convincing Muslim countries that our fight is not against Islam. President Obama has had some success with that goal. Dis-inviting Graham seems like a prudent move. But some of the faithful see an Islamic plot.
The Christian temptation is to believe so devoutly in the images we paint in our imaginations that we begin to worship those images. CS Lewis wrote of a fictitious woman whose parents always spoke of the "divine substance." The woman came to imagine God as the equivalent of miles and miles of tapioca pudding. In Lewis' book The Screwtape Letters a senior demon boasts to a minion that the goal of subverting the woman's soul toward Satan was made easier by the fact that she hated tapioca. When we worship the God of our imagination, we go beyond idolatry and venture into self-worship.
Yet we are required to make judgments. If you regard the crucifixion as an atonement, a substitute sacrifice submitted to appease a wrathful God, it will have an effect on your view of your creator and your relationship to the moral universe. If you see Jesus as bearing a message of hope, of acceptance of a hard core of worth in each of God's children, and the crucifixion as a challenge to the darkness from which we are saved, you will have a different view.
In the United Methodist Church we hold monthly communion. It is an open ceremony. All Christians are invited to participate. Part of the ritual has the pastor saying to the congregation. "The Lord be with you." The congregation responds, "And also with you." The pastor says, "Lift up your hearts." The congregation answers, "We lift them up to the Lord." Is this the "correct" way to worship? Is it God's preferred ceremony? Should it separate one child of God from another? One wit imagines a Methodist at a Star Wars convention. "May the Force be with you," says a stranger. The Methodist answers reflexively, "And also with you."
The old story of a theological argument ends with "You worship God in your way. I'll worship him in His." If we fail to realize that our rituals are a symbolic representation of a best guess, we begin to worship the rituals. We choose the rituals according to whatever comprehension we are granted and hope for the best. A recurrent theme in the New Testament is the transcendence of God beyond anything we can imagine. Father Thomas Merton acknowledged that we do not know if what we think God wills is actually the will of God. He prayed that our desire to please God may itself please Him.
Father Merton's prayer rejects Christian arrogance in favor of Christian humility. The woman in C.S. Lewis' book escapes her inadvertent tapioca worship, and the efforts of demons, by simply affirming her faith in God as He really is, not as she imagines him to be. Father Merton's prayer, and the fictional woman's affirmation, have within them a humble faith that is not detectable in the bombast of Franklin Graham and his angry defenders.
If people think Islam is such a wonderful religion, just go to Saudi Arabia and make it your home. Just live there. If you think Islam is such a wonderful religion, I mean, go and live under the Taliban somewhere.
- - Reverend Franklin Graham, ABC News Nightline, March 15, 2006
Commenting on religious freedom
At The Hankster, Randy Miller of a Utah group of independents writes on the virtues of political independence and the vices of party.
Conservative James Wigderson practices his creative use of quotation marks. He disputes an analysis by a public utility on alternative energy, which analysis he calls an "analysis". He counters it with an analysis by a right wing institute, which he calls an analysis.
- Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST considers what it means to be a real man.
Doesn't matter that the words make no sense.
Wall Street is getting on everybody's nerves. First they get us into a terrible, heartbreaking, devastating mess. Folks are losing income. People are losing jobs they have worked hard at for decades. Homes are being foreclosed on. Those that aren't are losing value quickly. "I hate to burst your bubble" no longer leads to a punchline. It's as likely to lead to a punch.
Obama & Co. have lowered taxes to lower than your ancestors paid half a century ago. There is a reason folks think that taxes are going up. It's because it's a nightmare to make ends meet. It feels like tax time every day. Everyone knows the President didn't get us into this horrible cesspool. It was caused by Wall Street and regulators asleep at the switch. But Obama's had a whole year! Why hasn't he gotten us out of this mess?
Then Wall Street begs to be bailed out. "Moral hazard" is the term we apply to this welfare in reverse. We pay because policy makers don't want a greater depression than the Great Depression. Those dirty rotten...
Goldman Sachs is accused and the evidence is devastating. Emails from 2007 boast about clients being ripped off.Those putting together deals knew they were bad. They did it on purpose. They bet against the house. That is pretty close to pure business evil. But most of the pure evil was legal.
Only by going too far did the thieves get in trouble. Fueling the fire is the insulting defense of the lowdown practices. The clients were sophisticated, so they must have known they were getting ripped off. If they didn't, shame on them. Goldman owners were among the investors who got hit by the scheme. How can you blame us if our house got hit by our own executives? Besides, hedge funds are unregulated so you can't touch us. Ha ha ha.
It gets worse. Wall Street executives award themselves billions of dollars in bonuses. Again. Yet again. That's billions. With a b.
So they get us into a mess. They get bailed out. They document their own fraud. They live like Kings. They take endless bonuses while everyone else suffers. Think it can't get worse? Turns out they have friends in high places.
GOP leader Mitch McConnell met with Wall Street execs and came up with a plan. Pretend a crackdown on the worst practices is the direct opposite. Call it a bailout. Then kill it with filibuster. Keep the Senate tied up again. Wall Street is the ever-friend of the GOP, and the party has to stay loyal.
It might not work. Media is copping an attitude: Fool me once, shame on you. Lie to me a hundred thousand times and I might tattle. Or something like that. A couple of Republicans might help Democrats break the filibuster.
We are a long way from Rick Santelli and Wall Street traders ranting on television against "homeless losers". Regulation may be worked out yet.
Wall Street financial wizards screaming against losers facing foreclosure
The old story has a blacksmith explaining to his new apprentice, "I'm going to put this horseshoe on the anvil. When I nod my head, you hit it with that hammer." Thus the apprentice inherits the business.
Most everyone hates picking on sick people. And that's what insurance companies do. Those with preexisting conditions are dropped or told they can't apply for coverage. The idea that someone can be financially wiped out or even denied care for daring to suffer from a medical condition is unfair from most points of view. When Roy Blunt (R-MO) says sick or injured adults pretty much deserve their misfortune, he is in a distinct minority. So folks hate insurance companies for beating up on sick people.
But corporations have a reason for avoiding clientele with health problems. If they don't, folks will simply wait until they are sick or injured to purchase insurance. Why buy fire insurance if you can wait until your house is burning? If you were an insurance corporation, could you afford to insure burning houses?
So the government also says it's no fair waiting until you're sick to get coverage. Everyone has to buy. Besides, it's a lot cheaper that way. Problem is not everyone can afford even low cost coverage. So government has to help out low income working families. Once insurance companies have everyone as a client they have to be told that it's no fair raising premiums through the roof just because they can. So, if you tell insurance companies no more discrimination because of health, you pretty much have to go with the basics of Obamacare.
Folks who pay attention get this. The rest, which is to say lots of people, kind of resent the necessary steps. What do you mean I have to buy coverage when I'm not sick? We have to help poor folks? And what about death panels? Republican candidates can get a lot of votes before clarity sets in. That is, if they just stick to the resentments. If they get into specifics, ... you know ... logic, they get in trouble.
Sue Lowden, the probable next Senator from Nevada when voters bounce Harry Reid, is getting hit pretty hard. She did what no Republican should ever do. She tried to make sense. She presented her plan to replace health care reform. Patients should barter with Doctors. This raised questions. You mean like they did 200 years ago? With chickens?
Her campaign explained she was misunderstood. She only meant haggling with hospitals. Many of us accepted that. It was pretty wacky anyway. But now the candidate explains some more. She actually does mean trading livestock for medical treatment. Just like your great-great grandparents did.
In Lowden's case, there is no mistake in syntax.
Unlike the blacksmith, she really is asking to be clobbered.