Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Should Justice Alito’s Views on Evolving Technology in the First Amendment Context Also Be Applied to Second Amendment Jurisprudence?

As anyone who has read this blog will know, I’m not a big fan of guns (I like ’em in my books or on a movie screen, but not on the street around me and my family.) For that matter, I’m not a big fan of the Second Amendment. I’m one of those people who believes that the militia clause of the Second Amendment has (or had…) a meaning. And I’ve always believed that guns and arms are one of the areas where the Founding Fathers simply could not fathom or anticipate what technological advances would bring. Remember that in the days of the Founding Fathers, guns were single shot muzzleloaders that took quite a while to load between each shot. Other than that, you could use a sword or a knife or maybe a bow. Cannons shot balls of steel and some simple explosives had been devised. But there is no way, I don’t think, that the founding fathers could have anticipated automatic rifles with an effective range of several hundred yards, with lasers to assist targeting, that could shoot multiple armor-piercing (and I’m talking Kevlar, not chainmail) bullets each second and which could be reloaded (after firing an enormous number of bullets) merely by switching out a compact or high-capacity magazine. Nor could they have contemplated Kevlar body armor, night-vision equipment, grenade launchers, or any of the host of other modern weaponry.

With that in mind, I found a portion of the Justice Alito’s limited concurrence in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n, 564 U.S. ___ (2011) (with which Chief Justice Roberts joined) quite interesting. The case dealt with a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to children. (The Court ruled that California’s ban was an unconstitutional restrain on free speech, a decision with which I agree.) However, read the following portion of Justice Alito’s concurring opinion, but instead of thinking about video games and the right of a state to ban their sale to children, think instead about guns and the right of a state to limit the types of guns that may be purchased or to impose certain other reasonable restrictions upon their ownership.

In considering the application of un-changing constitutional principles to new and rapidly evolving technology, this Court should proceed with caution. We should make every effort to understand the new technology. We should take into account the possibility that developing technology may have important societal implications that will become apparent only with time. We should not jump to the conclusion that new technology is fundamentally the same as some older thing with which we are familiar. And we should not hastily dismiss the judgment of legislators, who may be in a better position than we are to assess the implications of new technology. The opinion of the Court exhibits none of this caution.

Finally, just for (fun) reference. This was what was meant by “arms” when the Constitution was written:

And this is an example of "arms" today:

Not sure about you, but I notice a slight difference.

Hence, I would argue that this language from Justice Alito’s concurrence is equally applicable to gun control legislation, perhaps even more so (after all, words and images don’t kill people; guns do). To paraphrase, we should not jump to the conclusion that automatic rifles with high capacity magazines firing armor piercing bullets aimed via laser targeting systems are fundamentally the same as single-shot muzzleloading flintlock rifles with which we are (and the Founding Fathers were familiar) and the courts should not hastily dismiss the judgment of legislators who may be in a better position than the courts to assess the implications of new technology.

I’m a big supporter of broad interpretation of the First Amendment and narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so, but I’m willing to engage in the discussion. But it does seem to me that if Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts believe that we need to take notice of the societal implications of advancing technologies for First Amendment jurisprudence, then we should engage in a similar analysis vis-à-vis the Second Amendment.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Early Look at the Republican Presidential Contenders

With just under 500 days until the next Presidential election, it appears that media has become completely obsessed with the Republican candidates for President. But for a brief hiatus to cover Rep. Anthony Wiener’s wiener, it seems as if the news these days is almost 24/7 Republican candidates. So, I decided to do my own “first look” at the contenders. Note that absent some monumental change, I don’t see myself voting for any of these candidates. And the thoughts that I express aren’t necessarily what I think about the candidates, but rather, what I think the reaction of Republican voters will be. So, when I say that a candidate has a “flaw” for example, I’m speaking not of my problem with the candidate but of how Republican voters will, I believe, react to that candidate.

I’ll discuss the candidates in no real particular order…

Presidential Candidate Mitt RomneyMitt Romney

Romney seems to have several major flaws that I think will wind up hurting him. First, he’s a Mormon. While we don’t have religious tests for public office, I have to wonder to the extent to which evangelical Republicans will be put off by Romney’s religion. From my perspective, his religion shouldn’t matter (though what he himself believes and how he lives, are obviously relevant); but I tend to think that there is a large part of the electorate — perhaps the same part that continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim — who won’t vote for a Mormon (and might not vote for a Catholic or Jew). And I’m not sure that I’d trust polls on this issue. I think that a lot of voters who, in reality, would not vote for a Mormon (or Jew or whatever) will be embarrassed to admit that to a pollster. Nobody wants to be labeled a bigot, even anonymously.

Second, Romney has earned a reputation for flip-flopping on his positions on certain issues (in particular, abortion). For whatever reason, it seems to be a political liability for a candidate to change his or her mind. For myself, I don’t have a problem with a candidate who changes a position on the basis of new information or of the evolving nature of societal acceptance of certain things or any of a host of other reasonable explanations (provided that the candidate offers a good explanation). But I will agree with a lot of people who don’t like politicians who appear to change positions, not because of any deep reason, but simply for political expediency. As we get closer to actual voting, I suspect that Romney’s opponents (or PACs who don’t like him) will flood particular markets with video of Romney’s very strong support of abortion rights in a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate some years ago. I think Romney will have a hard time explaining his change of position that doesn’t come off as pandering for political expediency, especially when his “flip-flop” is shown as just one of a pattern.

Next, given how unpopular healthcare reform has been on the right (at least by those who are completely uninformed about what the healthcare reform legislation really did, as opposed to the lies and fear-mongering that they’ve been spoon fed), I think that Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare reform (I won’t call it Romneycare, mostly for the same reasons that I don’t call the federal healthcare reform Obamacare) will be the proverbial albatross around Romney’s neck.

Finally, have you noticed how, even though Romney is supposedly the frontrunner, nobody seems to really like him much? I’m not sure what that’s all about (I haven’t watched or listened to him enough), but somehow he just doesn’t generate any real enthusiasm. If people aren’t excited about the candidate, how much of an effort (not just giving money) will they make to get that candidate elected?

Presidential Candidate Tim PawlentyTim Pawlenty

Pawlenty is a bit of a wild card to me. I really don’t know much about him or his policies as Governor of Minnesota. The way I see it, Pawlenty may have a big upside if he can get people to notice him and pay attention. But so far, he hasn’t been able to do that and he’s been in the race for a long time. And Iowa, the site of the first primary (well, caucus, actually) is just next door. So you’d think that he’d be able to make an impact. But, for whatever reason, he seems to be stuck in neutral (or even moving downwards). Add to that the fact that he appears to be challenging for many of the same voters as fellow Minnesotan (is that right?) Michelle Bachmann. Two candidates from the same region competing for the same space. If voters were making choices on the basis of intelligence and reason, then Pawlenty should win that mini-race by default; but as we know, many voters make their decisions on many facts other than such silly things as intelligence, qualifications, and competence.

Unless Pawlenty can gain some major traction soon, I think that he’s going to be dead in the water.

Presidential Candidate Michele BachmannMichelle Bachmann

That I’m even including Bachmann in this list is literally painful. Seriously. The degree of stupidity exhibited by this woman is so frightening that I’m actually terrified of what it says about members of the voting public that anyone would support this ignoramus. But at least she’s smarter than Sarah Palin. Then again, my 11-year-olds are smarter than Sarah Palin (as are both of my dogs, my old pet rock, and that sock I wore the other day), so that’s not saying much.

I’m torn on what I think Bachmann’s chances are. On one hand, if voters really listen to her and to some of the things that she’s said in the past, to how easily she just makes shit up or lies, to her complete disdain for science and evidence, and to her constant appeals to our xenophobic and bigoted instincts, then I think that she’ll end up on the trash heap of failed candidates. On the other hand, look at how many people believed in “death panels” or worry that sharia law is taking over America or honestly believe that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim who hates America or that being liberal (or even just a Democrat) is akin to being a Marxist, socialist, fascist, or some other form of evil intent on destroying America. Those people will love Bachmann. So the question is whether people, as the primaries draw nearer, will think before they vote, or whether they will continue to allow themselves to be guided to decisions premised on lies.

Bachmann did well in the New Hampshire debate a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how she does with more and more aggressive questioning — not to mention attacks by other candidates — as the campaign progresses. If she responds well, her stock will obviously rise. However, if her mouth starts running off on autopilot without giving the brain (presuming there’s one there) a chance to catch up, then she could quickly reveal herself as someone wholly unfit for office. Thus, I expect Bachmann to follow a Palin-like strategy of trying to limit her media exposure to “friendly” interviews. Of course that won’t matter much if members of the public get to ask her questions or in future debates where other candidates will have their chance to challenge her.

The good news, I guess, is that should Bachmann be on the ticket (even as a VP candidate), I don’t think that the Republican could possibly win. She has so much baggage that will compel most moderates away from the Republican party and make it much easier for Democrats to focus “turn out the vote” efforts just to vote against Bachmann.

One more thing: I really wish someone in the media would challenge Bachmann when she says that she raised 28 kids. She had 25 foster care children (and I don’t mean to denigrate that; I think that is something for which she is justifiably proud and for which she should be applauded); however, it is my understanding, that some of those children were with her for a very brief period, such that she may have briefly fostered them but didn’t really “raise” them. But, like her false claim that she didn’t benefit from farm subsidies, this is just another case where Bachmann plays “fast and loose” with facts without apparent challenge.

For some of my previous thoughts on Bachmann, please see my posts “Republican Congresswoman Follows Palin's Lead and Calls for Investigation Into Anti-Americans in Congress”, “Bachmann Misreads Herself! Huh?”, “Bachmann Now Supports Obama? Do These People Ever Listen to Themselves?”, “Bachmann Calls Her Own Comments an ‘Urban Myth’”, “Seditious Words From Republican Who Believes Democrats Are Anti-American”, and “Michelle Bachmann: The Idiot Who Won't Shut Up”. Since my last post focusing on Bachmann, she’s made plenty more truly idiotic statements; I just haven’t had the energy to keep up with them. But if she gets anywhere close to the White House, you can be sure that I (and many, many others) will be very quick to highlight just how dump — and dangerous — this woman really is.

Presidential Candidate Ron PaulRon Paul

Paul has a very energized and vocal base of support, but is otherwise not terribly well known. I think that some of his libertarian views will find a lot of favor in the Republican electorate. But other libertarian views will, I think, really turn off many more Republican voters (i.e., legalization of drugs). Moreover, I think that once people start to really focus on the implications of some of Paul’s efforts to eliminate huge portions of the government, then the perceived popularity of his ideas will begin to lose favor — quickly. Similarly, Paul’s isolationist views are at odds with the more hawkish elements of the Republican electorate.

Finally, and this may be more relevant to the general election than to the Republican primary, some of Paul’s associations and the nature of some of his biggest supporters (anti-Semites and white supremacists) will (I hope) make people, both Republicans and Democrats, uncomfortable.

Presidential Candidate Herman CainHerman Cain

The following statement is going to sound a bit racist, so let me complete the thought before you draw any conclusions. I think that Cain’s support is largely based upon the fact that he’s black (and note that, if I’m not mistaken, he is careful to note that he’s black and not an African-American, not liking that particular designation). What do I mean by that? I think that a lot of Republicans are, knowingly or otherwise, trying hard to show that both they and other Republicans are not racists and that opposition to President Obama is not based on racism. How best to show that you’re not a racist? Simple: Support a black candidate! Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe Republicans really like Herman Cain, even though most had never heard of him before very recently and many more are highly unlikely to have heard much of what he has to say. Yet even with his relative obscurity, he continues to poll quite well. Hmm.

But I think that Cain is highly unlikely to do well as people hear more from him and the other candidates. He has demonstrated that he is a bit of a gaffe machine. Moreover, his overt Islamophobia combined with his efforts to walk back the overt Islamophobia all while insisting that he didn’t actually say the things that he clearly did say (maybe he hasn’t heard of YouTube?) to be charged with being an Islamophobe may make some voters a bit nervous. Sure, there is a segment that probably agrees with Cain’s idea of a “loyalty test” for Muslims (that same segment would probably be happy kicking Muslims out of the US or requiring them to convert to Christianity, too), but I don’t think that more moderate voters will favor that viewpoint.

Finally, I think that there is a large portion of the Republican electorate that will reject Cain because he’s black.

Presidential Candidate Newt GingrichNewt Gingrich

By the time I finish this post (I started it last week…), Gingrich may be done. His campaign staff quit en masse a few weeks ago, last week his fundraising folks quit, and we’ve learned that his $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany was actually the second line of credit he had (apparently, Gingrich also has a $1,000,000 line!). That’s a lot of jewelry. How many engagement rings can you buy for $1,500,000?

Gingrich has so much baggage, I suspect that airlines charge him extra just to fly. Recall (and you can expect that other Republican candidates will certainly remind voters) that Gingrich was removed from his position as Speaker of the House because of ethical lapses. Gee, that’s who we want for President. And Gingrich has left not one, but two wives, for women with whom he was having extra-marital affairs. And according to some reports, in both cases, the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Gingrich’s were either in the hospital or ill when he decided to get divorced. Moreover, don’t forget that Gingrich, while he was leading the impeachment efforts against President Clinton for lying about a blowjob, was himself having an extra-marital affair with a House staffer. His explanation for that infidelity: “There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” Ah, yes. The old, I’m such a patriot, I just had to have sex with someone who wasn’t my wife defense. Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned last week for tweeting naked pictures of himself, but serial-philanderer Gingrich is running for President?

I could go on and on with Gingrich’s flaws, but it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. His presidential aspirations are toast, but the name recognition that he revives will help him sell more books and give more speeches … which of course will help him pay that bill to Tiffany.

Presidential Candidate Rick SantorumRick Santorum

Santorum scares me, though thankfully, I don’t think that he has a chance of getting the nomination. He is a man that his so tone deaf to the world around him that I would be truly frightened of what an America under the leadership of Santorum might look like. He’s also one of those holier-than-thou sort of people. I just read an article last week about how the extremely anti-abortion candidate, a candidate who doesn’t believe in any exceptions, permitted doctors to induce an abortion in his wife to save her life. In other words, abortion is evil and nobody should ever have the right to an abortion … except for Santorum’s family. The saving grace, so to speak, is that I think Santorum’s social values stances are so far to the right, that he will be very unappealing to all but the furthest right portion of the Republican party. While the primaries tend to drive candidates toward the extremes, I think that candidates like Bachmann and Pawlenty (or maybe Rick Perry) can position themselves to the far right without going as far right as Santorum.

Presidential Candidate Jon HuntsmanJohn Huntsman

Like most Americans, I don’t really know much about Huntsman. From what I’ve heard, he plans to run as the most centrist of the Republican candidates. And while that appeals to me, I don’t think that’s going to play terribly well with the primary-voting Republican base. The fact that Huntsman is a Mormon will likely cause him the same problems that Romney will encounter. And Huntsman’s positions on things like civil unions (he supports them) and global warming (he believes in it) may be anathema to the Republicans he’ll need to secure the nomination. (I’d love to know what he thinks of evolution; if he believes in it, then he’s probably toast.) He might be a formidable opponent for President Obama in the general election (especially if he could run from the center and characterize President Obama as running from the left), but first Huntsman will need to get the nomination and those sort of centrist (and rational…) positions aren’t likely to endear him to the Republican base. Finally, you can be sure that time and again, other candidates will remind voters that Huntsman not only served in the Obama administration (as ambassador to China) but that Huntsman has offered (in writing, no less) glowing praise of President Obama. The visceral hate of President Obama from so many on the right (Obama Derangement Syndrome) may make a candidate that not only worked for/with President Obama, but even had the audacity to say something positive about him, just too “extreme”.

Presidential Candidate Gary JohnsonGary Johnson

Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico is a true libertarian. But that means that some of his views on social issues won’t meet with a lot of favor from a portion of the Republican electorate. More problematic for Johnson is the complete lack of name recognition that he has (or, to be more precise, does not have). In this month’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, Johnson, a declared candidate, was not included, while Bachmann, who only declared during the debate, was included. If Johnson can’t find a way to get in front of voters and to be on the same stage as the candidates who do have name recognition, then he is going nowhere fast.

Presidential Candidate Fred KargerFred Karger

Karger is openly gay. ’Nuff said? I don’t know. Maybe the 3 or 4 Republicans who favored repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the 1 or 2 Republicans who support civil unions or … gasp … gay marriage will vote for Karger. But in reality, his campaign is simply a stunt and he’s not a viable candidate. One question, I suppose, is whether Karger will draw any votes at all; if he does, those votes are likely to come from the more moderate portion of the Republican electorate, at the expense of candidates like Huntsman or maybe Romney.

Presidential Candidate Rick PerryRick Perry

So far, Perry isn’t in the race, though in recent weeks there have been some inklings that he is considering throwing his proverbial hat into the ring. Perry has a lot of ups (at least as far as Republican voters and the primaries are concerned), not the least of which is that he (other than Gingrich) would be the lone Southerner in the race. And after Iowa and New Hampshire, the Republican primary contest moves to South Carolina. From there, southern states become very important on the path to the Republican nomination.

Perry does, however, have some serious baggage of his own. First, and this is just my own two cents, will voters be uncomfortable with yet another Texas cowboy in the White House? I think that even a lot of Republican voters don’t look back on the Bush presidency with great fondness. Thus, one has to wonder whether Perry’s ties to Bush (if I’m not mistaken, he was Bush’s Lieutenant Governor) and other eerie similarities (he even seems to like to talk like Bush, droppin’ his Gs and bein’ all folksy) will be too much. And the macho cowboy image he likes to portray (he jogs with a gun and kills wild animals while jogging?) maybe a bit much for a lot of Americans.

There are also persistent rumors that Perry is … drum roll please … gay. Enough so, that his “even though I’m not running” team is apparently working to counter those rumors. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire? And even if there isn’t a fire, how will Republican voters react? Recall the drubbing that McCain took in South Carolina in 2000 when Bush supporters painted McCain as the father of a “black” child (his adopted Asian daughter). If Perry has to spend face time telling people that he’s not gay, it will just be less time that he has to talk to them about why they should support him.

Finally, there is the giant elephant in the room that I suspect every other Republican candidate will remind voters of time and time again and that is Perry’s flirtation with the early Tea Party movement and suggestions that Texas should secede if it doesn’t get what it wants from Washington. It will be hard to argue that he should be elected President of a country that he suggested, however obliquely, that Texas secede from. After all, it’s hard to play the role of the patriot when your opponents have red meat that they can display to suggest that you are anything but patriotic. My question is why the national media, in story after story on Perry and whether he may run, never remembers to mention that particular episode.

Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

What is there left to say about the blathering idiot from Alaska (or is that Arizona)? The half-term governor (and half-bus tour non-candidate?) is like a lightning rod of love and hate. She appears to have an adoring public who would probably be willing to kill the other candidates (and voters, too) to get Palin elected. But I don’t think that there has ever been a candidate with more negative polling numbers than Palin. For every voter who lovers her, several absolutely detest her.

Could Palin win the Republican nomination? I don’t think so. I think that once she had to stand on stage with the other candidates and debate them day after day, the grin and wink routine would wear thin. She only debated then Senator Biden once and he didn’t pound on her the way the other Republican candidates might. If she runs for the Republican nomination, she’ll have to debate the rest of the candidates, some of whom at least appear to have a firm grasp of some of the issues (however delusional their policies may be) where Palin can offer little more than “gee, shucks” folksy bon mots that don’t really say much. And heaven help Palin if she is ever actually forced to really discuss an issue in depth. If she really runs, she won’t be able to limit press access to Fox News and friendly reporters. Who knows, some reporter might even ask her really hard questions, just like Katie Couric. Or they might ask her another gotcha question like “What have you done today?” And you can bet that if she gets in the race and starts making headway, some candidates opposition research team will begin to put forth Trig-trutherism information (that is, advancing the conspiracy that her baby was not really hers but rather her daughter’s…). Just like Obama Birtherism, Trig-truthism remains a active conspiracy among some.

If Palin is unable to handle any of that, just as she was apparently unable to handle the extreme stress and attention of governing Alaska, then how will voters really respond to her desire to be the Republican nominee for President?

Other Candidates

Jimmy McMillan, Tom Miller, Roy Moore, Buddy Roemer, Vern Wuensche, and maybe others. You may have heard of Judge Roy Moore (the Alabama Ten Commandments judge) or Buddy Roemer (former Democratic Governor of Louisiana). All of these guys make Fred Karger look like a highly viable candidate with a good chance to win.

The Kingmakers

One additional point that needs to be raised with regard to all of the candidates. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess, depending on your viewpoint), none of this may matter in the least! Why? Because the decision of who is chosen as the Republican nominee may, in all practicality, be out of the hands of voters. Instead, the decision may be entirely up to corporate donors who can now spend unlimited amounts to say and do whatever they want to help or hurt their chosen champion. If a particular candidate generates corporate or SuperPAC support sufficient to drown out competing candidates and viewpoints, then voters may never get the real chance to make any kind of meaningful decision. A candidate with a good message but not enough funding to spread that message will whither in the face of a well-funded onslaught. And if that weren’t enough, we have to remember that the real GOP kingmaker is probably Fox News. If they support a candidate and give wall to wall favorable fair and balanced coverage while turning the fair and balanced “dynasty of lying” (to use John Stewart’s phrase from last week…) on the non-favored candidates, then those actions, too, may take meaningful decision-making out of the hands of Republican voters who may simply believe and do as they are instructed (or have no choices left by the time that poorly-funded, non-Fox supported candidates have been forced from the race).

Ah, democracy.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, June 24, 2011

Looks Like a Triple-Win for the Good Guys

Well, well, well. It looks like this is going to go down as a Friday night where the good guys notch not one, not two, but three wins.

First, a Federal District Judge in Indianapolis has issued an injunction preventing the State of Indiana from cutting off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood and enjoining enforcement of a requirement that doctors lie to their patients and tell them that a fetus may feel pain. For more detail, please see “Judge stays abortion law that defunded Planned Parenthood”.

And another Federal District Judge in Indianapolis has also enjoined enforcement to two provisions of the recently passed anti-immigrant legislation. For more detail on that story, please see “Judge issues injunction on Indiana's immigration law”.

And finally, it is beginning to look like New York’s Senate will tonight pass a bill that will, when signed by New York’s Governor, legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

Three big wins for the good guys. Watching the right go batshit crazy tomorrow will be fun!

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Graphic Slogans That Describe My Mood

Over the last few days, I’ve encountered several interesting graphic slogans that do a pretty good job of describing certain thoughts that I’ve had, some of which I’ve tried to express on this blog. So, rather than hashing out the ideas again, I’ll let the graphics speak for themselves.

In a similar vein (and t-shirts and stickers with these slogans can be purchased here):





This next one, sort of boils down Obama Derangement Syndrome and birtherism into a great bite-size nugget:


Also, one of my constant problems with the Republican party has been its seemingly utter disregard for science. Hence:



I was led to some of the following images following a message from a friend that linked to the story “Newly Crowned Miss USA Was One Of Only Two Contestants Who Believe In Evolution”. Several of the contestants, in response to a question about whether evolution should be taught in schools, responded that they thought that “both sides” of the issue should be taught. Well, it seems that there are lots of other issues where we’re making a mistake by only teaching one side of the issue. These images address some of those issues (and t-shirts and stickers are available here):


We should be teaching the other side that says that the moon landings were faked, and


We should be teaching the other side that says that the real elements are Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether, and


We should be teaching the other side that says that the pyramids were built by aliens, and

turtle geocentric

We should be teaching the other side that says it’s “turtles all the way down” (seriously…) or that the sun and planets orbit the earth, and


Along with astronomy we should be teaching the other side that believes in astrology (hey, it worked for Nancy Reagan…), and


Along with chemistry we should be teaching alchemy (though I’m sure that Glenn Beck and Goldline don’t really want people to learn how to turn lead into gold), and


Along with medicine, we should be teaching the other side that says that disease and illness is caused by demons (why do you say, “God bless you,” after someone sneezes…?), and


We should be teaching the other said that says that babies are delivered via stork, and

reincarnation xenu

So long as we’re basing our curriculum on the Bible and other religious beliefs, then we should certainly be teaching the other side that believes in reincarnation or that humans were brought to earth on an airplane by Xenu (a fundamental teaching of Scientology), and


We should teach the Mayan belief that earth will be destroyed in 2012 (we better get on that one … time is running out), and


We absolutely must teach the other side that says that Elvis is still alive, and, of course,

young coexistence

We should be teaching the other side that says that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. (Note: The Creation Museum in Kentucky apparently has exhibits depicting humans riding dinosaurs and using them as domesticated animals.)

This stuff would just be funny if it weren’t for the enormous number of people who really believe some of this shit. And that the fact that some of them want to be President … terrifying.

(If you like one of these images, go buy yourself a shirt!)

Updated February 2, 2012: Broken links fixed.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Discussion on Civility in Public Debate — Or Not

This morning, the Carmel section of The Indianapolis Star included an interesting editorial “Sadly, civil debate is a thing of the past” by Mo Merhoff, the president of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce. Let me excerpt the most interesting parts of the editorial (but the whole piece is worth reading):

It wasn't argument; it was mental sports. I might not have liked some of Dad's viewpoints, nor he mine, but that was never a threat to our strong relationship.

I miss that kind of debate. The kind where you have at the issues and not the people. When at argument's end, someone says, "I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree" and both sides head to drinks or dinner together.

What happened? Perhaps after years of watching public figures and commentators label anyone opposed to their own point of view as everything from communist to anti-American to heathen, we're choosing to follow suit. What's happened to our reasoning ability?

While there are many fallacies in formal debate, my teacher drummed what she called the "seven deadliest" into our heads in debate class. These days, they're all on broad display in public speeches, radio commentary, television talk shows and meetings. Hasty generalizations, straw-man arguments, begging the question and bandwagon appeals abound.

My two personal favorites make virtually every political advertisement — post hoc ergo propter hoc (just because something came before something else doesn't necessarily mean it caused it) and the ubiquitous ad hominem attack (argument against the person, not the idea)…. In today's interpretation, anything coming from (insert the name of your least favorite politician here) has to be ill-advised, stupid, self-serving or a lie. That's not just faulty reasoning, that's ridiculous. And sad. …

Those who've spent more than a few years in government complain about the loss of camaraderie. The evenings when after strong debate on the floor of the House or Senate, representatives from both sides would repair to dinner and continue the discussion, sometimes coming up with a better solution, but almost always able to enjoy friendship if not total agreement.

That's not possible today, when even being seen with "the opposition" is dangerous. Are we reaching the point where our friendships will be predicated on our opinions? Will we be unable to enjoy the company of anyone who doesn't see eye to eye with our views?

I sincerely hope not. It's time for bright citizens in positive communities like ours to stop the polarization and embrace enjoying fair argument on the issues….

Note that at no point in the editorial did Merhoff discuss any particular issue, any particular current commentator or politician, or indicate that her thoughts pertained to Carmel, in particular, rather than to American politics in general.

Now, before moving on to what prompted this post (beyond wanting to link to this editorial), I want to repeat one portion of Merhoff’s article:

the ubiquitous ad hominem attack (argument against the person, not the idea)…. In today's interpretation, anything coming from (insert the name of your least favorite politician here) has to be ill-advised, stupid, self-serving or a lie. That's not just faulty reasoning, that's ridiculous. And sad.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the comments to this editorial posted on the website of The Indianapolis Star. The very first comment comes from “CarmelParisRome”, a frequent anonymous poster who, I think it’s fair to say, does not care for Mayor Brainard:*

Interesting that Mo, a major Brainard supporter ( I believe that she introduced Jim at his 2007, swearing in ceremony), someone who wanted to eliminate the public option to speak at Carmel City Council meetings (blue card), yet someone who never fails to use her “position” as a member of the Chamber to “represent” business interests, stand up and pens an article on the deteriorating nature of public debate.

Mo, It’s your man Brainard, who has taken in, and spent to his political consultant - Alan Sutherlan- $750,000.00 since 2003 in an attempt to control the debate ..... Brainard (and Carter) who sees a political motivation, in anyone else’s actions ..... Brainard (and Carter) who like to label those who do not share the “vision” as “Malcontents”, “Naysayers”, NIMBYS - or long term residents, who should just leave Carmel ..... MOVE

Yes, that’s right. To answer Merhoff’s discussion of the lack of civility in public debate (including a particular emphasis on the use of ad hominem attacks), the very first post is … an ad hominem attack. Now what is the motivation for someone to ignore the core thesis of an editorial with no specific target other than a broad public goal and then twist that into an attack on the author and on a particular politician? What kind of animus motivates such a response?

But it didn’t end there. Following several more anonymous attacks either on Merhoff, Mayor Brainard, and/or Democrats and liberals, I decided (probably, unwisely, but what the hell), to offer my proverbial two cents:

A few things of interest to note here. First, note that one of the things that the author talked about was the ad hominem attack. Yet a quick review of the comments reveals an almost complete lack of any discussion of the merits of the article itself but, instead, ad hominem attacks against the author along the lines of “Gee, we don't have to take your argument seriously, because we think you've been nasty in the past.” The article isn’t about Mayor Brainard or Carmel or even Indiana politics. It is about the lack of civil discourse and debate within our political system. Is the author correct that civil debate is a thing of the past? I hope not, but I think it is.

Next, I note that CarmelParisRome has taken yet another opportunity to criticize Mayor Brainard (or anyone who supports him). One thing is for sure: CarmelParisRome certainly never misses a chance to spew vitriol. But query this: Why does CarmelParisRome refuse to reveal his/her identity? Why can’t CarmelParisRome stand up and take responsibility for her comments and views? Part of a fully functioning democratic process is the exchange of ideas, but when people feel emboldened to fire off criticism anonymously that they wouldn't say publicly, then the process is damaged rather than furthered.

So what of it, CarmelParisRome: Are you willing to step up and take responsibility for your comments and let your community know who you are or are going to continue your pattern of harsh criticism from behind a veil of anonymity?

To which CarmelParisRome responded:

This is true, we have had this debate before....usually on twitter.

I choose to not post my real identity, because I have seen how, such individuals are attacked (by Mayor Brainard’s supporters - may of whom, are doing business either with or in the City of Carmel). Following people in vehicles, posting photos of drive ways, etc.

Sorry .... But I choose to not do something stupid. The fact that you choose reveal who you are ... well that is your choice, I choose otherwise.

Do I think that the topic of discussion of the article has merit?..Of course, but to have someone (Mo in this case) or the Mayor stand up and be sanctimonious as if they have never participated in such activities .... well, in my mind, that is hypocrisy.

The Mayor, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars - in a hidden fashion, to attack those who see things differently.

To say that my points are invalid, because I choose to hide my true identity .... well that may be convenient for you, so that you can try and disregard what I write ..... but there is a historical precedent... I know that you are an intelligent person .... google Silence Dogood or other nom de plumes.

As for the content of my writings ... please note.... that the substance of your initial writings, was about ad hominem attacks ..... and yet what do you proceed to do, but to attack me.....pot .... meet kettle!

The reality is that we have different opinions on the City of Carmel's current “leadership”..... you have yours, and I have mine ... mine just does not pass through the lens of who is signing checks for my company.

In response, I offered two comments:

I note that you still haven’t discussed the issue at hand from the original article; to-wit, the decline of civility in debate and discourse. The article has absolutely nothing to do with Carmel or Mayor Brainard or any other specific issue or event. It is a much broader discussion of the level and nature of our political discourse. So bringing in any historical precedent vis-a-vis Mayor Brainard and Carmel is wholly irrelevant to the point of the author’s article.

Just for context, civility is a frequent topic on my own personal blog. It has found its way into many of the things that I’ve written about (though I’ve only tagged a handful of posts with the “civility” tag: But anyone who reads my posts on a regular basis will know that civility and the nature of political discourse are frequent themes and concerns.

Finally, I understand why you might choose to remain anonymous, but I don’t think that it is good for political debate.


Incidentally, CarmelParisRome, I neglected to mention that I take great offense to your statement that my opinions “pass through the lens of who is signing checks for my company.” Can you back that allegation up with evidence or are you just making a baseless charge? I’ve lived in Carmel since 1974 (leaving only for my time in college and law school). I'm a graduate of Carmel High School (as is my wife) and my children presently attend Carmel schools. I have run for office in Hamilton Country (as a Democrat) and I’ve never been shy about my politicial ideologies or beliefs. But whether I agree or disagree with Mayor Brainard and whether I agree or disagree with his policies has nothing whatsoever to do with what I post here or on my own blog. But the sanctimonius, holier-than-thou attitude that you display, willing to make baseless allegations from behind your veil of anonymity, is truly sickening. If you want to express anonymous opinions, then fine. Do so. But when those opinions turn to charges of wrongdoing or conflict-of-interest, then stand up and take responsibility for your actions and statements. I express my thoughts and my thoughts alone. Whose thoughts, we must all ask ourselves, are those of CarmelParisRome? Of course, now that I note the pattern of charge and allegation in your posts, it’s no wonder that you want to keep your identity hidden. It’s easy to attack anonymously; it’s much, much harder to do so openly, especially when the attack is baseless.

(Note that I thought there was yet another post from CarmelParisRome worth reprinting, but it appears to have been deleted from the comment system. Right now, if you go to the comments page, the system says that there are 14 comments, yet I only count 11…)

Why am I posting all of this? Actually, I’m not quite sure. I found the original article on civil debate to be very interesting and I was frankly quite angry (though not terribly surprised) at the comments to that editorial. So, following along with the subtitle to this  blog — “A chance for me to share my thoughts (or, maybe just vent a bit)” — I guess this post can be seen as a wee bit of venting.

Update: After finishing this post, but shortly before publishing it, I went back to the comment page as a part of my proofing process. And lo and behold, CarmelParisRome responded:

Wow....sorry I had not realized that you are so sensitive ..... I thought that from our previous discussions, that you acknowledged that you and your firm benefit from the work that your partner, Mr. Haas does for the Carmel Redevelopment Commission.

As for your political affiliation, interesting that you are able to support, and jump to defend Mayor Brainard ..... there are quite a few residents, who feel that Mayor Brainard is little more than a RINO - Republican in Name Only.

Glad to hear that you have lived in Carmel for 37 years ..... almost as long as the infamous Brainard supporter Jack Badger (what's he up to now 43 years), I guess I'm a relativity newcomer ...... only moved here in 1984 - only 27 years..... although, I I will say, I did so, as an adult .... none that urban school flight that occurred in the mid to late 1970's when IPS was desegregated..... and with no children of school age, it was not for the schools.

To which I replied:

Wow. You really do have a proverbial axe to grind, don't you. Yes, I've acknowledged that my firm (in particular, one of my partners) works for Carmel. But I also noted, during that previous Twitter exchange that my support for Mayor Brainard was on the basis of what he's done, rather than our firm's relationship with Carmel. Yet, you, without evidence make allegations of conflict-of-interest. Moroever, I'm not sure that it is accurate to say that I "jump to defend" Mayor Brainard. This particular editorial had nothing to do with Mayor Brainard. My "jumping in" was for the purpose of noting that your criticism of Mayor Brainard had nothing to do with the subject of the editorial.

One other observation: You seem surprised (or perhaps you're expressing irony) that I am "able" to support Mayor Brainard given that I'm a Democrat. My politicial affiliation has nothing to do with it. I support candidates, be at the level of mayor, state legislature, president, or whatever, on the basis of their ideas and actions. Thus, my support for Mayor Brainard, as I told you previously in a Twitter exchange, is based on what he has done. You go on to note that "quite a few residents" believe that Mayor Brainard is a RINO. You fail to note that Mayor Brainard won the REPUBLICAN primary with more votes than all of the rest of the Republican candidates combined. So, while "quite a few residents" may think he's a RINO, "quite a few" also apparently like him enough to re-elect him with a very large majority.


*I had my first run-in with CarmelParisRome the weekend before May’s primary election. One of the candidates trying to unseat Mayor Brainard mailed out a stunningly appalling and vile flyer comparing Mayor Brainard to Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, and Rod Blagojevich. I (along with many others) expressed outrage over this flying on Twitter. In response, CarmelParisRome tried to argue that my outrage over the flyer had to do with the fact that my law firm represents Carmel: “As CRC Att. Haas' Partner aren't you biased?” and later claimed said, “I was stating, w/ bias comment,  that you may have a fin. interest in status quo/cont. spending…”. In response, I noted: “Fair enough. But you'll have to trust me when I say I like Brainard for what he's done and detest Accetturo for that flyer.” But it appears that CarmelParisRome has decided to continue this baseless line of attack.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strange … um … Bedfellows? (Pun Intended)

This past weekend was the largest gay pride event in Indiana. It included a parade, artistic performances, street vendors, and all sorts of other activities. I regret that, due to family commitments, I wasn’t able to attend to show my support for gay rights in Indianapolis and across the state (and country).

If you were brave enough to wade into the comments section of the newspaper or read what some local conservative and “family values” groups had to say about the pride festival, you would think that armed gangs of drag queens were marching throughout Indianapolis stealing children to indoctrinate them into the “gay lifestyle”. And you would probably have “learned” that all of these “deviants” were going to burn in Hell. Finally, I’m sure that you would have also been led to believe that tolerance for homosexuality is one of the reasons for a perceived decline in America’s status and influence (not to mention hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and who knows what other ills).

Now, obviously, I think that’s all a load of horseshit. But here’s what I find interesting: I suspect that if you were to ask those most vocally against gay rights generally or the pride festival in particular to identify the one other country on the planet that they most respect besides America, many of them would say Israel. Now some, if they were being really honest, would acknowledge that their fondness for Israel has little to do with Israel’s democratic values; rather, they would point to the “Second Coming”, the battle of Armageddon, the Rapture, and the part that Israel and the Jews will supposedly play in those events. But far more, I suspect, would point to Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East and other similar positive elements as the reason that they respect (and support Israel). And that’s fine.

But here’s what’s weird. The same week that saw a gay pride festival here in Indianapolis also witnessed a truly massive gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. In fact, Tel Aviv is known, in part, for trying to make itself one of, if not the, most “gay friendly” cities anywhere. Gays serve openly in Israel’s military. Gays are allowed to enter into the equivalent of civil unions (marriage itself is a religious matter). Gay Palestinians flee the West Bank and Gaza to seek refuge in Israel.

I wonder what those homophobic American supporters of Israel would have to say about that?

But that’s not the end of the weirdness. For I also suspect that if you were to ask many of the participants in the pride events what they thought about Israel, you’d encounter very negative reactions (at least among the most left-leaning). They would point to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, civilian casualties in Gaza, and the “wall” (never the “separation barrier”), and you’d hear terms like “occupation”, “colonial”, “apartheid”, and maybe even “Nazi”. And I suspect that many of those who espoused anti-Israeli views would either be wholly ignorant of how gays are treated in the Arab and Muslim world (remember Iranian President Ahmedinajad famously claiming that there are no gays in Iran) where homosexuality is often punishable by death or they would ascribe the disparate treatment to “cultural differences” or “religious traditions” for which we should have a degree of understanding and respect. I wonder what would happen if a few hundred gays decided to parade in downtown Cairo, Damascus, or Ramallah? And what would happen to a soldier in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or the Saudi Arabian army who told his comrades and commanders that he was gay? Before answering, don’t forget that in places like Saudi Arabia, women can’t drive cars and some crimes are punished via public executions or amputations.

So, we have the far right homophobes who love Israel despite the respect that Israel affords its gay citizens (and, for that matter, the respect it affords to its 20% Muslim population while here in America the far right worries about the influence of sharia or applauds as politicians suggest unconstitutional loyalty oaths for Muslims). And the far left anti-Israel crowd demonizes Israel despite the fidelity to gay rights (and civil rights generally) in a democratic system in which all minority groups are able to participate (did you know that there are Arabs on Israel’s Supreme Court?) and speak freely all while being threatened with violence or extermination and with its very right to exist being challenged.

It seems that those on the right need to come to terms with … and start being honest about … why they support Israel so strongly.* And it seems that those on the far left need to comes to terms … and start being honest with themselves … with the fact that Israel, not the Palestinians or the rest of the Arab or Muslim world, represents the highest and best values that those on the left favor, even in the midst of violence, terror, and the constant threat of aggression.

Somehow religion and propaganda have found strange bedfellows when it comes to expressions of civil rights. It’s as if black is white, night is day, and gay is straight.


*Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad for any help and support Israel can get. However, I try to keep in mind that a love for Israel is not the same thing as a love for Jews. Moreover, I worry about support for Israel that is premised upon prophetic versions of the future and which may, because of the perceived need for a “Greater Israel” actually work at cross-purposes to a peace that Israelis may choose.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, June 10, 2011

Anthony Weiner Is a Lying Ass — So?

When I heard earlier this week that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) had, in fact, lied about tweeting a picture of his underwear, and admitted to having online sexual discussions (and exchange of explicit photos), I was angry. When this matter first erupted over Memorial Day weekend, I defended Rep. Weiner both because I like him and because of the history of those from whom the charges originated. So, when the truth came out, I felt betrayed.

But as I thought more and more about Rep. Weiner and his “transgressions” I realized that this “scandal” really shouldn’t be treated as such. Yes, Rep. Weiner should have come clean when the news first broke. Some kind of an “I’m embarrassed by my behavior” statement, issued, promptly, would most likely have prevented the whole scandal from growing and dominating the news cycle. But, when we look at Rep. Weiner’s transgressions, and compare those to the greater realm of political scandals, this one just isn’t meaningful and, in my opinion, probably shouldn’t be treated as a scandal at all. I’ll elaborate on my thinking in a moment, but I do want to add this one caveat: If it turns out that any of the women with whom Rep. Weiner was exchanging pictures and sexual texts were underage, and if he knew (or should have known, through the exercise of reasonable diligence) that they were underage, then this does become a real scandal.

So why don’t I think Rep. Weiner’s transgressions are worth the attention that has been given to them? First, let’s remember this key point (subject to the caveat above): There has been no allegation that Rep. Weiner broke any laws. He didn’t pay a prostitute (like Sen. Vitter or Gov. Spitzer), he didn’t illegally proposition a law enforcement officer for sex (like Sen. Craig), he didn’t use campaign funds to pay off a staffer with whom he’d had an illicit affair (Sen. Ensign), he didn’t molest underage Congressional pages (Rep. Foley), he didn’t sexually harass those who worked for him (Justice Thomas), he didn’t grope staffers (Rep. Massa), and he didn’t lie under oath about sexual relations(President Clinton). Nor was Rep. Weiner’s conduct even physical (President Clinton, Gov. Sanford, Sen. Edwards, Gov. Schwarzenneger, Rep. Souder). He didn’t father illegitimate children (Gov. Schwarzenneger, Sen. Edwards, Rep. Burton), divorce his wife while she was ill or engage in an illicit affair at the same time that he was trying to impeach a sitting president for lying about an illicit affair (Rep. Gingrich), or lie about who he was as he sought illicit sexual relationships on Craigslist (Rep. Lee). Nope. All that Rep. Weiner did was engage in online or telephonic sexual conversations (sexting, phone sex, emails, or whatever). Does his wife have a right to be angry? Of course. Do his constituents have the right to decide that they don’t approve of his conduct and vote him out of office? Again, of course. But what right do any of the rest of us have to be angry with Rep. Weiner? His conduct wasn’t criminal and it didn’t impact us.

And Rep. Weiner was never a “family values” politician that sought to impose his view of morality upon the rest of us. (And it was refreshing to see him not drag his wife onto the podium as he gave his apology; it wasn’t her fault, so there was no reason for her to stand under the withering lights and questions of the press.)

Apparently, the House Ethics committee intends to look into the matter. If Rep. Weiner used the Blackberry paid for by the US government or conducted any of this activity in his Congressional office, then he may have violated House rules. But I seem to recall hearing about other members of Congress making campaign solicitation calls from their offices (which apparently, they are not allowed to do) and I suspect that if we looked into the phone records of members of Congress, we’d find that plenty of them have made personal telephone calls or even calls to solicit funds. If we were to look at the computer browser history of every computer of every member of Congress, I suspect that we’d find at least one or two pornographic images or websites.

The Federal Elections Commission is presently investigating  Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) and the auto dealerships he used to own for campaign finance violations. Yet, I haven’t heard the media or other members of Congress demanding his resignation. Think about that for a moment. We have one Congressman who emailed naked pictures of himself. We have another who may have used illegally obtained funds to get elected. Which is the worse violation? Yet which one has dominated media coverage? And which one has given rise to colleagues calling for a resignation? I’d argue that if we are more concerned with legal conduct that … ooh … involves sex than we are illegal conduct that goes to the functioning of our democratic system, then we have a real problem and mixed up priorities.

Moreover, while I’ve heard Republicans like Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) call for Rep. Weiner to resign, I haven’t heard similar calls for Sen. Vitter to resign, even though he admitted to using prostitutes (which, you’ll note, is illegal). In fact, at a Republican Congressional gathering after Vitter’s admission, he was treated to a standing ovation.

Ah, but Rep. Weiner lied, you say. And so he did. I’m sure that he’s the first member of Congress who has ever lied, right? I’m sure that he’s the first married man to lie about something that would get his wife angry. I’m sure that he’s the first person who lied about something that was, while perfectly legal, nevertheless embarrassing. Tell, me this: Which is more harmful to Congress, a lie about personal (though apparently perfectly legal) conduct like that which Rep. Weiner engaged in or a lie about facts during a debate about policy? For example, compare the lie told by Rep. Weiner to this whopper told by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana). And what about every Republican member of Congress that repeated Sarah Palin’s “death panels” lie?

Rep. Weiner did stupid things in his personal life. But the more that we demand purity in the personal lives of our politicians, the harder and harder it is going to be to get anyone to be willing to step up and seek office. The politics of personal destruction are not good for our system of government. By all means, if someone breaks the law they should be held accountable. And personal actions can (and perhaps should) have personal consequences and may even be reasons for voters to choose another candidate. But when someone makes a mistake in their personal life, and that mistake is not illegal, is it really the sort of scandal that we should be paying attention to? And when that mistake doesn’t even involve physical contact but just emails and texts and photos, have we gone too far?

Just out of curiosity, how many extramarital affairs and/or divorces is a politician allowed before becoming “damaged goods”? I mean, just between Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani we have 4 divorces and who knows how many extra-marital affairs.

Rep. Weiner did a stupid thing. And he lied about it. That was stupid too. But how many of us have never done something stupid or that we’re ashamed of? How many of us have never done something that we would be embarrassed about should our loved ones (let alone the public) learn about? And how many of us would, if caught, at least try to lie our way out of the situation first? And yet does any of that make any of us bad people? Does that lessen our efforts to provide for our families or to make our communities better? Does that render our opinions meaningless? Does that make us ineligible to serve in an elected capacity?

Another thing that is worth thinking about is the degree of scrutiny applied to politicians who use social media. In Rep. Weiner’s case, a self-described conservative group was following Rep. Weiner’s online activity very closely (perhaps rising to the level of cyber-stalking), I suppose looking for a scandal. Given that social media is largely public, I guess that sort of scrutiny may just be the price of admission. But query how comfortable we would be if those same conservatives were not just following Rep. Weiner online but in person, too. How would we feel if groups that opposed a particular politician began making public every time that the politician went to a bar, every restaurant the politician ate in, every time the politician was seen in the company (however innocent it may in fact have been) of someone of the opposite sex who wasn’t that politician’s spouse. So long as the conduct is not illegal, is that really any of our concern? And why, then, are we uncomfortable with that sort of stalking but are, apparently, fine, if the stalking is merely virtual?

Or ask the question this way: Are Rep. Weiner’s views on taxation somehow “tainted” because he sent sexual text messages? Was his effort to secure healthcare for the 9/11 responders somehow less important or meaningful because he emailed pictures of his penis? Are his political views somehow lessened or rendered incorrect because he is apparently an egotistical jerk? I don’t think so.

Some scandals merit our attention, some our outrage. To me, it is much more scandalous to watch members of Congress lie to constituents about policy and empirical facts upon which political decisions are made than to know that a politician talked about sex with women. It is much more scandalous to realize that so many politicians are bought and paid for by enormous multi-national corporations and banks than it is to know that a politician sent a naked picture of himself. And it is certainly more scandalous to know that some politicians have broken actual laws than it is to know that a politician lied about mistakes made in his personal life.

Let’s stop worrying about silly things like whether Rep. Weiner tweeted a photo of his underwear and pay more attention to whether poor children are getting adequate food and housing, whether Americans can afford health care, whether there is anything that we can do to prevent global climate change, or any of the myriad host of other critical issues that are facing our country. Sorry, but Rep. Weiner’s weiner just doesn’t make that list; he may be a lying ass, but so what?


Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Let’s Play Palin History!

Following Sarah Palin’s recent word salad description of Paul Revere’s ride (and her subsequent Bafflegab* attempt to support her original mishmash), a new game of sorts appeared on Twitter under the hashtag #PalinHistory. Essentially, folks on Twitter began recasting events from history in a more Palin-esque fashion. Below, are a some of the #PalinHistory tweets that made me chuckle. As you read, please try to imagine Sarah’s voice … it won’t be too difficult:

  • "Roe versus Wade" were George Washington's two choices for how to get across the Delaware River.
  • Those who don't learn from the History Channel are doomed to watch the repeats
  • The only reason we have climate change is because Reagan ended the COLD war.
  • The Founding Fathers loved Jesus almost as much as they hated slavery.
  • Pioneers had to form militias to hunt down the Indians who were in this country illegally when the real Americans got here from Europe.
  • The Statue of Liberty holds a torch because she's watching to make sure no illegal immigrants sneak in.
  • In 1968, Minister & civic rights leader, Rodney King was tragically slain by a lone gunman named James Earl Jones.
  • 'It's just like when Thomas Paine invented the window, so, um, we could see freedom better ... '
  • I'm now at 1601 followers. Same year the Pilgrims wrote the constitution at Plymouth station wagon.
  • If only Abe Lincoln hadn't watched that play from the john wilkes booth and sat in a regular seat like everyone else.
  • The Ku Klux Klan was a fraternal organization that tried to introduce African-Americans to nature, particularly trees.
  • Davy Crickett, best known as Pinocchio's conscience, killed Bear Bryant when he was only three.
  • During WWII, Jews in Europe chose to wear yellow Stars of David as show of their immense faith
  • They called the Hiroshima bomb the Adam Bomb because it was the first one, just like in the Bible
  • The Boxer Rebellion was when Tyson bit Holyfield's ear off and spit it into Don King's hair.
  • Saddam Hussein got his yellowcake from a guy named Duncan Hines.
  • Before the Pony Express, you had to wait weeks for your pony to be delivered.
  • John Lennon led the Russian revolution. And that's when all the trouble started.
  • In 1776, some guys wrote the Declaration of the Preamble to the 2nd Amendment.. or something.
  • The "Trail of Tears" is the story of John Boehner's courageous journey from his humble beginnings in Ohio to the US Congress.
  • Lewis Clark explored this great country of ours, also, guided by George Jefferson's wife, Sacajaweezy.
  • Colonel Sanders fought at Gettysburg to preserve the rights of chickens.
  • Thomas Jefferson got rid of his slaves after he and Weezy moved on up to the East Side.
  • The Alamo was a fort to prevent illegal immigration which fell when Carlos Santana attacked Daniel Boone
  • Founding Father Sam Adams was able to start his brewery in 1983, because Reagan was President and he kept taxes low.
  • Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and then rose three days later. And then he invented the town car.
  • Palin Thinks "Roe versus Wade" were George Washington's two choices for how to get across the Delaware River.
  • Row vs Wade is a decision we all have to make when crossing a creek or river.
  • I got lost trying to find Gettysburg Address. Should've used GPS.
  • President Obama has to stop the spending! We didn't need a "Louisiana purchase" we already OWNED it because our oil is there!
  • Little did the Donner Party know they would be the first party to serve All-American style barbecue to the Western states.
  • Marilyn was way ahead of her time with that Monroe Doctrine of hers. Go feminists!
  • The Original Tea Party happened because the King of England wouldn't let the Indians drink their morning coffee.
  • Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" was his last known address before he moved to the White House!
  • The Founding Fathers immortalized my right to shoot eagles with a submachinegun in the US Constitution.
  • The Cold War was not due to climate change
  • George Washington defended Robert E. Lee's right to free speech at Gettysburg and later they ate cherry pie.
  • Israel was founded by America in 1892 to prevent the Al Qaeda from blowing up the Hoover Dam
  • Paul Revere went on Ed Sullivan to warn of the British Invasion. One if by land, two if she loves you (yeah yeah yeah)
  • He rode a horse HERE? in this traffic?
  • Lewis & Clarke started an Expedition because they didn't have a Prius.
  • Union workers don't work as hard as real, folksy Americans. That's why the Union Army lost the Civil War.
  • George Washington threw a quarter across the Potomac which hit the Liberty Bell, and taught it how to "let freedom ring"
  • The Statute of Liberty is a warning from the French that we should reject 8-week paid vacations & universal healthcare.
  • When Paul Revere was in the bell tower with his lanterns, he could see Russia from up there.
  • "Our nation didn't fall apart when British fired on the Mayflower that dark morning in Dallas. We won that war in Vietnam!"
  • Reagan freed the slaves after defeating Chicago in the Civil War.
  • "& let's never forget those first Americans, dumping that tea in the Bay of Pigs to tell those communists that we are free..."
  • Dinosaurs went extinct because of too strict hunting regulations on early man.
  • Fave Jefferson quote: "No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of a corporate lobbyist."
  • As grueling as Paul Revere's ride was, he was still able to write "Cherokee Nation" between stops. Genius!
  • The Statute of Liberty has the immigration law carved into the base, but Vespucci was a liberal blogger so it's biased.
  • "All tyranny needs to gain a raising the debt ceiling without cuts to Medicare" - Thomas Jefferson
  • A lot of people sailed over here hundreds of years ago from the country of Africa because they wanted jobs.
  • Paul Revere wrote the directions for his famous ride on the palm of his hand, starting a great American tradition.
  • The first bell Paul Revere rang cracked, becoming the now famous Liberty Bell.
  • Custer beat Tonto at Little Big Horn
  • That's Big Big Horn. There is nothing little about America!
  • President Bill Clinton was so financially inept, he left office with a surplus of unspent money.
  • Founding Fathers all had to show their original, long form birth certificates before signing Constitution
  • Benedict Arnold is famous for serving eggs to the British, which is why he's a traitor. Also, there were bells.”
  • "Isn't it neat how they fought all those Civil War battles in National Parks?"
  • Jesus said: "Only the least taxed, least regulated among you will reach everlasting life."
  • Paul Revere went a ridin’ and a shootin’ in celebration of the second amendment. Killed him a bear, too, as a warning to Putin.
  • Einstein's hair got that way cuz he was holding Franklin's hand when he put key in light socket and discovered electricity.
  • If the Indians *really* wanted the Pilgrims to stay away, why did they build all those casinos?
  • George Washington used his ax to chop down that... umm, apple tree because we needed them pies for America to be strong!
  • According to Paul Revere, *3* lanterns meant the Redcoats were coming in black helicopters.
  • Patrick Henry understood the dangers of single payer health care when he said, "Give me Liberty or give me Death Panels"
  • then Gen. Washington's men lined up their surveyors' symbols & fired at lamestream liberal Brits who were spreading Sharia law
  • the Jews invented jewelry
  • The Civil War started because the Unions bosses and thugs attacked the Freedom lovin' Capitalists in the South.
  • All of the Indians greeted the European settlers as liberators.
  • Books, and even the modern concept of learning, were deliberately created by liberals in order to make conservatives look bad
  • Battle of Bull Run fought in Pamplona, Spain
  • What was so wrong with giving the Japanese internships?
  • In 1776, the founding fathers rang those bells to keep the freedom to arm bears in Alaska.
  • George Washington took his boat across the state of Delaware to warn the British not to take his fishing license.
  • "Our nation didn't fall apart when British fired on the Mayflower that dark morning in Dallas. We won that war in Vietnam!"
  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Abraham Lincoln because he thought he was a homosexual because he went to the theater.
  • The Bay of Pigs was when the Founding Fathers threw their livestock overboard rather than pay taxes to King George.
  • Vietnam was a long, bloody conflict against the Koreans.
  • The original Tea Party Patriots demanded deregulation so the job creators like the East India Tea Co. could grow the economy.
  • George W. Bush did the most badass thing in history. He caught Bin Laden while he wasn't even President!
  • The founding fathers knew darn well what Americans had God-given rights to own: land, firearms and black people.

There are many, many more…


*Bafflegab: Multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Playing Chicken With the World’s Economy

I’ve watched enough movies and TV to know that usually, when people play chicken, someone winds up driving off the road and into a ditch (or over a cliff), often with severe injuries or even death. Thus, it seems to me that a game of chicken probably isn’t the best way to resolve a dispute over who has the bigger cojones. But a game of chicken is precisely what Congressional Republicans have decided to play with the debt ceiling. The GOP is threatening that it won’t raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats give in to Republican plans to kill (or at least substantially modify) Medicare.

The choice that Democrats have is fairly straightforward. They can vote for a GOP-sponsored massive change to Medicare (framed as an attempt to reduce the deficit, but largely a method of paying for still further massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans) or they can refuse and see if Republicans will really drive the American economy (and maybe even the entire world economy, if some economists are to be believed) into the proverbial ditch (or even off the proverbial cliff). Given the extensive backing of the GOP by large banks and multinational corporations who do not want the economy to crash, it seems highly unlikely that the GOP won’t blink and back off of their position.

Thus, I think that Democrats should stand firm and refuse to agree to changes to Medicare tied to raising the debt ceiling. I think Democrats should be equally firm that they are willing to discuss changes to Medicare, but that those changes should be debated on their own merits and not as a part of the debt ceiling vote. And I think that Democrats should stand firm in their belief that changes in Medicare should not shift burdens to Americans least able to afford them in order to provide tax breaks to the wealthy. Republicans have said that tax increases are off the table; I think that Democrats should be equally firm in stating that everything must be on the table, including entitle reform and tax increases. In the meantime, I think that Democrats should — in fact must — spend their time educating the public on just what the ramifications are if we fail to raise the debt ceiling and precisely what the Republican plan to “reform” Medicare really means.

Republicans rode a wave of anger to victory in November 2010, a wave that was, in large part, a product of lie-based fear-mongering (death panels and government takeover!). Well, perhaps now, it’s time for the Republicans to get a dose of their own medicine, only with truth and facts rather than lies. Joe the Plumber was upset about “wealth distribution” from the rich to the poor; I wonder how he’d feel about wealth distribution from the elderly to the wealthy or from the poorest to the richest?

There is one more analogy that I’d like to draw (though I’m sure that I’ll catch some flack for this analogy and I recognize that some might see it as a violation of my repeatedly expressed disgust over the use of violent rhetoric): Many countries have an expressed policy not to negotiate with terrorists. When a terrorist (or criminal) is holding the detonator for a bomb, we don’t negotiate for fear of encouraging other terrorists to engage in similar behavior. When the terrorist claims that unless some “political prisoners” are released, a building/dam/bridge or airplane will be blown up or a hostage killed, we may look for other ways to resolve the crisis, but we don’t usually release the prisoners. Now think of those prisoners as Medicare reform and, instead of a building, airplane, or hostage think of the world’s economy. Congressional Republicans are holding a detonator and threatening to blow up the economy if they don’t get the changes that they want in Medicare. The question, I suppose, is whether those Congressional Republicans are willing to martyr themselves for their cause? Are they really willing to risk a global financial meltdown, following which the US economy and currency will, most likely, no longer be the base upon which the world’s economic system is built?

And if the Congressional Republicans win what might they demand next time? We won’t raise the debt ceiling unless we get a Constitutional Amendment to ban abortion and gay marriage? We won’t ratify this arms control treaty unless we repeal health care reform? We won’t pass a budget unless President Obama resigns? The politics of high-stakes chicken may lead to some frightening results.

One more point about which I think Rachel Maddow was precisely right earlier this week. Why are Republicans so intent on playing this particular game of chicken at this particular time? Congressional Republicans have voted overwhelmingly in support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would gut Medicare and give those tax breaks (10%) to the wealthiest. Not surprisingly, both polling and evidence from constituent town hall meetings have shown Republicans how unpopular this plan is (even among Tea Partiers). So how can Republicans shed themselves of this albatross around their collective necks before the 2012 elections? Simple: Force Democrats to vote in favor of that same plan. If both parties have voted for the plan, then its potency as a political weapon is nullified. The GOP recognizes that they’ve made a very, very unpopular decision and, in order to keep that decision from being used against them in 2012 — quite successfully, in all likelihood — Republicans have decided to play a high-risk game of chicken. If they win, they may be able to keep power in Congress and their wealthy supporters will gain a huge financial windfall; but if they lose (and by lose, I mean take us over the cliff by refusing to back down from their position) then America and the world may be in for a very dark period, indeed.

Call your Members of Congress and tell them that our economy — the world’s economy — is too serious to gamble with; tell them to do what needs to be done now and then to try to have an adult conversation about appropriate long term reforms. But tell them that playing a game of ultra-high-risk chicken with the economy will be met with sharp disapproval in November 2012.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Newer›  ‹Older