It’s all part of this population control mentality that we as humans are the disease. He never said that biking is inherently wrong.
- - Nate Strauch, speaking for Dan Maes (R-CO), August 5, 2010
On bikes as an international conspiracy for world domination
Some time ago, policymakers decided that the way to increase investment was to cut taxes for wealthy investors, then to cut taxes again, and again, and ... well you know the story. It actually began before the Reagan years, but accelerated in the 1980s and continued to the present.
The idea is that investors create jobs, while workers just use them up. So we tax investors at a maximum rate of 15%. Top wage earners, those earning the very tip-top brackets, can get taxed up to 35%. President Obama wants to increase the very top to 39%, a little less than it was under President Reagan. This makes him a socialist, or a Muslim, or something. Christians know Jesus would never do that to rich folk.
But investors will remain at the head of the line when it comes to tax breaks. Some of us may disagree with the policy, but it does have a rationale. We want more jobs, so we'll try to encourage investment with tax breaks.
Which brings us to the long time dirty little Democratic secret. It concerns hedge funds, the exotic slice-and-dice-recombinant-mix-master-financial-gamble-from-college-calculus-Hell products that pretty much brought the economy to a grinding halt, threw millions of working people into unemployment lines, and came pretty close to putting all of us on the street selling apples to each other.
You see, there is a tax loophole that applies to hedge fund managers who remix other people's money. Extremely successful stockbrokers pay income tax, up to 35%. Extremely successful CEOs pay income tax on their salaries, up to 35%. Extremely successful sales people pay income tax on their commissions, up to 35%. Extremely successful lawyers pay income tax, up to 35%. The President pays income tax of 35%. All God's children pay up to 35% if they make a ton of money, except 15% rated investors.
And hedge fund managers.
Yup. Hedge fund managers have the same tax break for pushing around other people's money, taking risks with other people's money, losing other people's money, as the investors who gamble with them. They pay 15%. That's it. A hedge fund manager can make a gazillion dollars and still pay a lower rate in taxes than the secretary who works extra hours, then risks getting fired for refusing to serve coffee at business meetings.
Democrats have let this go on because hedge fund managers have donated a lot to Democratic campaigns. At least up to recently. You see, candidate Obama ran, like all good Democrats, on reforming the system. Everyone snickered because, of course, he didn't really mean it. Except he did.
The President insists hedge fund managers pay the same as everyone else. One hedge fund manager compares this new persecution to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Republicans grin at the sputtering rage and promise to keep treating hedge fund managers as a protected class.
So now hedge fund managers donate heavily to Republican candidates. Politicians come and go. Corruption is eternal.
For more cartoons, go to
That one person's religion is another person's belly laugh is a thought variously ascribed to:
- science fiction writer and perpetual crank, Robert Heinlein
- science fiction writer and perpetual genius, Isaac Asimov
- perpetual crank and perpetual genius, H.L. Mencken
Internet friend JMyste enjoys a good laugh at my expense, usually regarding spiritual beliefs. He has a keen wit and I enjoy laughing along (pretty much).
I especially enjoy living in a society in which such differences are more often a punchline than a threat. More often, but not always.
Among theocrats, religious disagreements can be deadly serious. Their joyless regard of theological differences is, in a way, understandable. To those who believe that America is, or at least should be, a Christian nation, religious beliefs are not merely expressions of opinion. A different view of the spiritual universe that might provide insights to a thoughtful person takes on a sinister tone for one who sees religion as part of government. Enforcing biblical ritual under the force of law is not a practice to be taken lightly.
Thus, one activist group warns against Glenn Beck. Beck would impose many things that sound pretty good, but the religion he would force on us is not real Christianity. "Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values. Mormonism is not a Christian denomination but a cult of Christianity... The country needs to get back to the simplicity of the Bible."
Beck, in turn, apologizes (sort of) for suggesting that the President hates white people. He now realizes the problem is that Barack Obama is not a real Christian. "I don't know what that is, other than it's not Muslim, it's not Christian. It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it." The President refuses to impose real Christian law on the nation.
Muslim Imam Abdul Rauf defines the issue of the Islamic Center in Manhattan accurately enough. But his words apply as well to the broader struggle for freedom as "not between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates of all the faith traditions and the radicals of all the faith traditions."
Those who condemn Islam, with its varying factions, are not concerned with evidence and nuance. The idea that a group of believers want nothing more than to worship in peace is contrary to all they know. That Muslims want to impose Islamic law is obvious. The only evidence bigots need is found in their own hearts. They know what they would do if they could take control.
Theocrats in this country are not against sharia law.
It just has to be the right sort of Christian sharia law.
The radicals feed of each other and need each other to sustain themselves. So we need right now to combat radical voices, that's the only we way we can win this struggle...
They want us to turn ourselves into enemies of the United States. So we wanted to tell them that "we don't listen to you, we're here in the very place you attacked, we're there to rebuild it and to build bridges of understanding."
- - Imam Shamsi Ali, of Islamic Cultural Center of NY, August 30, 2010
On September 25, 2005, Michael Brown, "Brownie" as he was by then known, was asked the most obvious question in the known universe. Why in the world did the Bush/Cheney administration sit by and watch while area after coastal area of Louisiana went below the waters and people died.
The question took the form of a technical inquiry. Why were three coastal parishes ignored in the emergency proclamation President Bush had issued in response to hurricane Katrina? Actually, the administration had not included ANY coastal parishes, the ones in ... you know ... the most danger. The answer might have gone unnoticed had it not been directly contradicted by available documentation. Michael Brown, Brownie, responded in congressional testimony by passing the buck to the Governor of Louisiana. It was shocking, he said. That's the word he used. Shocking. The Governor had not included those areas in her request for aid.
Except she had. The office of the Governor produced the written request (pdf). And there it was. The request included "all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor." The administration had not noticed that as help went out, excluding only those at death's door.
The testimony was, in all probability, not a lie. It was one more bit of evidence that an incompetent administration put little value on performance. Nobody knows if Nero really fiddled while Rome burned. Marie Antoinette probably never giggled her famous "Let them eat cake" when talking about starving masses in France. But America had actual photos. President Bush eating cake with Senator John McCain. The President looking out in mild curiosity from his aircraft as it circled New Orleans, his I-can-see-my-house moment. And his horrible heck-of-a-job-Brownie speech.
And there was Brownie himself, later revealed in the emails he sent to cronies, desperately begging for advice as thousands died. What shirts should he wear for television interviews? Should he roll up his sleeves? What restaurants would serve a cuisine suitable for his high rank? It was a natural consequence of an administration exclusively concerned with public relations and electoral response. Karl Rove, in a policy discussion, explained that deficits don't matter because his polling showed voters were unconcerned.
Last week Michael Brown had an epiphany. He had figured out what he called a fatal mistake concerning Katrina. While he and others appeared in television interviews, presumably wearing presentable cuff links, boasting about all that was being done, they forgot to include in their talking points all the obstacles they were facing. Without those excuses, the public turned against them. "One of the fatal mistakes I made was not making it clear."
In Michael Brown's wonderful world of interviews and proper shirts, even five years later, getting life-saving help to those at the edge of death remains a minor issue. The fatal mistake was one of incomplete public relations.
Again, I want to thank you all for -- and, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24 -- (applause) -- they're working 24 hours a day.
- - George W. Bush, President of the United States, September 2, 2005
18% of Americans believe that our President is a Muslim. Franklin Graham says this is because Barack Obama's father was a Muslim and that means that in 1961, the newborn baby carried "the seed of Islam" within him. Remember Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for 20 years? Jujitsu is an acceptable form of political combat, I suppose, but attacking the President for being the wrong kind of Christian, then attacking him for being a Muslim seems excessive.
Now, some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are raising a new form of birther question. Can he provide authentication that he was born again?
Obama’s claim of being baptized is presented in the context of discussing the fact that he was not born and baptized a Christian. He describes his Muslim father and grandfather and attendance in a Muslim school as he was growing up. Obama acknowledges that, before he joined Wright’s church, some people regarded him as a Muslim. Wright himself dabbled in Islam before establishing his church, Obama concedes.
Christian faith, by a sort of reverse mental transubstantiation, becomes simple tribalism, then a method of exclusion and attack. Requiring faith within a "Christian nation" has to eventually go to some process of proving one's faith.
Does he mumble the correct sort of incantation? Are the words said in the right order? Was he Baptized using water?
The preoccupation with the right sort of private belief is not applied exclusively to President Obama. A theological cannibalism parallels the Republican race to extremism. Right wing religious groups urge real Christians to stay away from Glenn Beck. His message of exclusion and bigotry are okay. His attacks on the President for hating white people are okay. But he is a Mormon, and those people are not really Christians. Ann Coulter is not a real Christian because she spoke to a group of gay conservatives. She seems to care more about speaking fees than considering the critical question: Who does Jesus hate?
The old story has a virulent argument about faith ending with a proposal to agree to disagree. "You worship God in your way. I'll worship Him in His."
One day we will live in a country in which Muslims are accepted as are Catholics or Mormons or Jews or any other faith or non-faith.
We are not there yet.
Slant Right's John Houk suggests that "Islamophobia" is an out of date leftist term. Some of us object to painting a group or religion as evil because of examples of evil members. But John knows Muslims are evil because he has examples of evil Muslims. You know, I warned John of the dangers of lead in drinking water, but he wouldn't listen. See what happens? Fortunately, there are no other conservatives who think like that. Right?
Right. Chuck Thinks Right notes that Jerry Springer likes Obama and, with Chuck logic, concludes that those who like Obama must be Jerry Springer. You know, I warned Chuck's momma of the dangers of home schooling, but she wouldn't listen. See what happens?
- Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST ghostwrites a speech for progressives.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for someone in pain. A jobs bill would be good about now.
It is hard to find an answer in the shock of the news, even two days later. How are we to deal with the brutal knife attack on a New York cab driver? Apparently the violence was caused by no more than friendly answers to questions about his Muslim faith. Are you a Muslim? Are you observing Ramadan? How long have you been in the United States?
The questions and casual answers were said to have been followed by silence, then cursing, and finally the ironic scream of a traditional Muslim greeting of peace, "Assalamu alaikum" and a shouted "consider this a checkpoint." The violence was nearly fatal, according to medical reports.
All things, these days, seem to lead to the 9/11 attacks. A lazy xenophobia associates all of Islam to the deaths of those innocents. The soft background prejudices that hibernate so near the surface are awakened into harsh intolerance. It happened after Pearl Harbor. It happens now.
I remember my college aged daughter weeping with me by telephone the afternoon of September 11, 2001. Her close friends and classmates on campus near DC waited for news of fathers, mothers, siblings who worked in or near the Pentagon. Her voice choked back tears as she asked the perennial human question, "How could anyone be so cruel?"
It was a question we struggled with again as some of those same friends, anxiety having turned to grief, stayed off the streets of Washington, fearful because they would be recognized as Muslim or Arab, or might be mistaken as such. It is a question we need to ask this week, as innocent people are targeted once more. False kinship is claimed. False guilt is assumed. Victims become "us". Perpetrators become "they." Look what "they" did to "us."
Plans for the Islamic Center in New York did not begin in controversy. People across the ideological spectrum treated it as an opportunity to demonstrate the unfailing tolerance of modern America. It was a thumb in the eye of al Qaeda. Talk hatred all you want. American Muslims will demonstrate a solidarity with the rest of the nation against radical elements who claim to speak for Islam. All of America will speak truth to cowardly extremism. We welcome the religious diversity that you fear.
But a few saw opportunity in latent bigotry, and small flames fanned into a contrived controversy. al Qaeda now scores the propaganda victory. To some in other lands, the blood libel that America's war is against all of Islam, instead of being exposed as the lie it is, becomes confirmed as fact.
How are we to react to this newest violence? Perhaps, weary as most of us become at the unending task, we might continue pointing out what, in a better world, would be obvious: That the perpetrator of the violence against a Muslim cabdriver does not speak for America; that a fringe group of Islamic radicals does not speak for all of Islam; that they do not speak for the smaller Sunni part of Islam, that they do not speak for Arabs, or those who wear traditional garb of any of a number of religions.
That countries, ethnic groups, and religions are too diverse to merit such group condemnation. That evil is not color coded. That each child of God has an intrinsic worth, a value to be welcomed and cherished. That this value that cannot be defaced under the cover of darkness, the darkness of group hatred. That a human being cannot be reduced to a symbol.
[From Editor: A very wise Tim McGaha of Tim's Thoughtful Spot writes regarding bigotry]
We are still, when it's all said and done, human. And this is a very human failing. We'll make progress against it, but I don't know that we'll ever be totally rid of it. We can hope for that day and work towards it, but I fear that only the dead have seen the end of racism.
I think I see an end to racism in the offing, a distant offing, an offing that requires a special telescope to observe it, but as sure as pudding and sweet potato pie, it is there. The racist tendency, however, will survive long after racism is made impossible. Europe is a union. Israel is a melting pot. The U.S. is a melting pot. My home is a melting pot.
I am a pale Caucasian and my wife is an African American, although she does not appreciate the term. I tried shortening it to only African, but she does not like that either. She retaliated with the proclamation that I am a European American, and I proudly confessed that it was true. She declared that she is just an American, like me, but as a good racist, I clung to the notion that she is bound in some cosmic way to her own continental adjective. I must tread lightly. Just what kind of American is she? How do I let people know she is black? Is it wrong for me to tell anyone, as there is no appropriate adjective to use? When I use any adjective at all am I guilty of suggesting that one is needed, that her race is real data?
I feel like my wife and I are a modern Pangean couple and that is all that matters. If she did not love me so much, the issue would be very delicate. I have to remember her history with care and never lose sight of the fact women are riddled with cryptic emotional objections and, as a member of the culturally sensitive elite, I must respect them. I once made the mistake of uttering such a thought to her, but she accused me of being sexist. Once race is hard to distinguish because women like my wife have shuffled our genes together as to render race unrecognizable, perhaps in the year 3428, there will not, as we may worry, be a big empty spot where racism used to live. We will still have sexism.
I explain to my wife that I must acknowledge the reality that women and men are not equal, but that does not make me sexist. A small sampling of the two sexes will reveal that women are more emotional and nurturing than men are. Men are more competitive, proud, and mechanically inclined, than women are. This does not mean that all men are more of this or all women are more of that. It just means that with a small sniff you can find a hint of a difference in the air.
I am a European Caucasian. My wife is an African American. Our children will be some of both, the new race, the inevitable race. God, I hope my children will be part Caucasian.
My name is John Myste and I am a modern racist: not because I feel racial prejudice. I don’t think I do; not because I express anything that could be construed as racially offensive, although I often do; it is because my wife is a member of the more sensitive of the two sexes and I know it.
Crowd chants "run away, coward" as they surround the man.
Turns out he is supposed to be there, as a union carpenter who works at Ground Zero.
This, unfortunately, is playing right into their hands. Extremists are encouraging all this, with glee.
It is their sense that by doing this that Americans are going to alienate American Muslims to the point where even relatively moderate Muslims are going to be pushed into joining extremist movements like al-Qaida. They couldn't be happier.
- - Evan F. Kohlmann, Flashpoint Global Partners, August 24, 2010
Flashpoint is a New York-based security firm. Kohlmann tracks extremist
The advancing steps in public discourse are incremental and often painfully slow. Anger at the apparent progress of black people served as a backdrop for other hatreds. Regional bigotry seemed mysterious to outsiders. Asians were hated mostly on the Pacific coast, until a few horrible years after Pearl Harbor painted everyone with the same brush. Prejudice against Native Americans remained a Southwest obsession, overlapping to other areas in the casual, unresentful thoughtlessness of most stereotypes. To most of America, the Kennedy election of 1960 was a triumph over anti-Catholic prejudice. To many it was a decisive blow against the No-Irish-Need-Apply attitudes experienced by that family for generations in the Boston area.
On some project when I was in high school, a few of us conducted a community survey on racial views. "I'm not prejudiced," explained one resident to me. "I'll tell who is prejudiced, though. It's those goddamn Irish Catholics."
In the 1950s and 60s, Harvard mathematician Tom Lehrer became famous after hours as a pianist and satirist whose songs carried pointed social commentary. One laugh line, after a narrative of various hatreds, was simply "and everybody hates the Jews." A friend in Baltimore, an older fellow who took me under his wing for a while, explained the success of one car dealer specializing in upscale, expensive models. His unusual business model was to sell to anyone who could afford to buy. Other dealers would, in those days, pointedly refuse to sell to Jews. Except for the most extreme fringes, anti-Jewish bigotry is on the way out.
Some prejudices seem to incubate for a while, as subgroups are viewed through a special prism reserved for them and those with a common background. Active discrimination sometimes erupts with a fury with economic disruption or national attack or with some other motive for broad brush stereotyping.
After 9/11, anyone who looked Arab or worshiped God in a Mosque was in some physical danger. Now Muslims are the active national target. A library friend is offended at my characterizing his views as bigotry. He explains that he doesn't hate Muslims. He just knows that Islam is satanic and Muslims are anti-American. As I explain that using actions of individuals or fringe groups to condemn large groups of innocents is wrong, he counters by bringing up examples of individuals and fringe groups.
We are comforted by a future in which these hatreds are rejected. But our comfort should be cautious. If history is a guide, future generations will indeed wonder about the irrational hatred of black people or gays or Muslims or Arabs or Mexican immigrants. They may shake their heads about the time and passion wasted on that nonsense when the real enemy is whatever group they will be targeting.
The travails of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, late of radio, bring to mind another talk radio personality. Morton Downey Jr. lost his own 1980s radio show in Sacramento, California when he derided a local politician for the man's Chinese ancestry. Downey would not apologize and KFBK-AM fired him. They brought in a quick replacement, an unknown named Rush Limbaugh, and racially provocative radio became a supercharged tradition. Downey went on to television syndication.
He was not the first shock talk host. Joe Pyne was a television pioneer. Most of what I recall, as a youth watching the show, was Pyne at a studio desk, sharing it with some liberal guest. Pyne would berate the guest to the cheers of his studio audience. They provided his leverage. His shows were not exactly a Bill Buckley Firing Line variety. He suggested that one guest gargle with razor blades, and his audience laughed and jeered. He hated homosexuals and had one fellow on who shamed him. The guest told Pyne that pretty much any member of the audience could walk down any street holding holds with a lover with no problem. "If I hold hands with the one I love, we could get arrested." Pyne ended the segment with "The only thing YOU need is a good woman." Two odd things happened. The audience was silent, and after a moment Joe Pyne apologized for the remark.
In the 1980s, Morton Downey, Jr played a little rougher. He would scream at what he called "slime" or "scumbuckets." His audience screamed along with him. Once, when he paused for breath, his guest calmly asked, "So anyone who disagrees is a 'pablum puking liberal'? Is that how it works?" Downey lamely explained the format. Another guest, a black civil rights activist, challenged him more directly. "I'll tell you something, you won't have the guts to say back to my face." Downey smiled at the challenge. It was HIS show, and he had the audience with him. The man looked him in the eye and said, "I love you."
Eventually the ratings died away. There was a scandal involving Nazis attacking him in a men's room, painting a swastika on his face, backward as if drawn by looking in a mirror. Downey eventually departed his show. He was diagnosed with cancer, and died a few years later. He described in an interview the cards and messages from liberals, including Senator Edward Kennedy. He was bitter about the lack of concern from conservatives. He apologized specifically for encouraging young people to smoke, and spent his last years campaigning against the habit. He said he regretted allowing his show to become so extreme, and often described himself as "a bastard."
As Christians, we are tempted to betray our faith by judging people as opposed to actions. Is the hurt Downey generated mitigated by his late repentance? I hope so. Are Lee Atwater's filthy tricks on behalf of Republicans mitigated by his deathbed apology? How about Robert Byrd's life of civil rights support after so many years of opposition, including a brief stint in the KKK? John Newton wrote "Amazing Grace" and became a voice against slavery after decades as a slave trader, decades during which he put hundreds of Africans into chains. The Apostle Paul is first mentioned in the Bible as Saul of Tarsus, devoted to killing and imprisoning early Christians.
We believe in redemption. In part, it implies hope for all who need to turn from the evils haunting humanity. Laura Schlessinger, most Christians, many of other faiths, some with no beliefs at all. You. Me. We all need that hope.