Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Undecided

Even after Romney's monumental electoral loss, the data shows that Romney won among independent voters.

But I'm wondering how many of those "independent voters" were conservatives who just didn't wish to be identified as Republicans.

And who can blame them?

Bush Jr. is pariah in his own party.

How many Republican men made outrageous statements about rape?

How many red states tried to pass crazy laws from "personhood" amendments to requiring vaginal ultrasounds for abortions?

Then there was the Susan J. Coleman Foundation debacle where the charity organization tried to pull its funding of breast exams from Planned Parenthood; and don't even get me started on the all-out Republican attack on Planned Parenthood, including Romney himself who vowed to end federal funding for the leading provider of healthcare for poor and uninsured women and men.

I know several people personally who claimed to be independent and "fiscally" conservative, who constantly argued for things like drug testing on welfare recipients. These were people who refused to identify themselves as Republicans, and in the absence of a rational argument against Obama would simply say things like, "I just don't trust him."

I also found the post-debate focus groups of "undecided" voters a bit suspicious. Several of the people in those interviews gave the typical undecided voter responses such as, "I didn't like either of them," but many of them were very obviously siding with Romney.

So in my opinion, the surge in support for Romney after the first debate was less about undecided voters siding with Romney for the first time, and more about lukewarm conservatives finally having a reasonable excuse for publicly siding with the party they already knew they were going to vote for.

My point being that there was never a true surge in support for Romney, just a small group of people who had been patiently waiting for Romney to shake the Etch-A-Sketch.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why bother?

One of the reasons I can't believe in heaven is that sounds excruciatingly boring. Peace, love, and happiness forever sounds like a good idea; but no problems... ever? Forever? For ever-ever? What could possibly be the point of existing at all?

Why get out of bed on any given morning if not to continue the march toward that unreachable horizon in the distance? How can we do anything good, unless something bad will happen if we don't act? How can there be heroes when all the villains have been vanquished?

The concept of an ultimate "good" that must overcome "evil" is a construct of Western theology, particularly Christianity and Islam. Most other theologies view the natural and supernatural worlds as inhabited by forces of creation and destruction, where the ideal state is one where these forces balance one another, rather than one needing to overcome the other. Creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin, so to speak, and one cannot exist without the other.

The point is that whether one is religious or not, Western ideas about good and evil pervade our expectations about how the world should work. These ideas can become counterproductive when the odds of changing society for the better seem insurmountable because the belief that good must vanquish evil sets the ground for an "all or nothing" attitude that is not only unrealistic, but distorts the reality of the world in which we live.

In particular, I am addressing the good-natured and relatively well-informed people who say things like, "everything is so messed up that it's pointless to try to do anything about it." These educated but exasperated do-nothings are far worse than those low-information, anti-intellectual rubes who consistently vote against their own best interests, because at least the rubes are trying.

So please accept that no matter how hard you work, the world will never be perfect. For every good thing you do, someone else will do something bad. But as long as you do something, we will all move forward, imperfectly, together. And no matter how bad the world seems, it is better than it has ever been. Information travels faster than it ever has, more people are educated, more women and children have protected legal rights, more gay people are accepted for who they are, the list goes on and on.

There will always be more work to be done in our endeavor to repair the world.

Now stop whining and let's get busy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The math has already been solved, but the class is staring out the window.

 How is nobody seeing this?

Romney says that all of his tax cuts will be "budget neutral" because he will balance the tax cuts by closing deductions and loopholes.

So if, when people sit down to do their taxes, whatever they save in tax cuts, they will pay back by claiming fewer deductions, and it all equals out to the same amount they were paying before... what exactly has been accomplished? How does this solve anything?

If your premise is that cutting taxes will enable "job creators" to "create jobs," how could you encourage job growth if the "job creators" are still paying the same amount in taxes?

And from the government side, how do tax cuts that are "budget neutral" solve anything??

Everyone keeps focusing on the fact that Romney and Ryan are refusing to provide details about their tax plan, when they have already provided the only detail that matters:

 tax cuts  getting rid of loopholes and deductions  $0

They already did the math, and it equals NOTHING!

Am I Alice?

Is this Wonderland?

Can someone pass the crazy juice because I'm tired of being sane. I hate math!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Will the real 47% please stand up?

The nice thing about the Occupy movement's "99%" is that whether or not someone agrees with their politics, they understand that they are a part of the 99% of Americans who are not insanely wealthy.

The problem with Romney's "47%" is that many people hear the message (almost half the country is a bunch of lazy, dependent moochers), without realizing that Romney is indeed talking about them. And let me tell you, the conservatives who rely on government services other than Welfare and Food Stamps are the most vehement, foaming-at-the-mouth defenders of the "heroic job creators who are unfairly persecuted with taxes."

So I'm going to do a Jeff Foxworthy version of breaking it down for folks.
  • If you've ever been exempt from paying federal income tax because you or your spouse was deployed in the military... you might be the 47%.
  • If your itemized deductions (for business expenses, child care, housing, education, healthcare, municipal bonds, etc.) were equal to or greater than your federal tax liability... you might be the 47%.
  • If you have ever been able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit... you might be the 47%.
  • If you have taken out federally insured student loans... you might be the 47%.
  • If you have ever attended a community college... you might be the 47%.
  • If you are retired and receiving Medicare... you might be the 47%.
  • If you are a family of 5 making $50,000 a year or less... you might be the 47%.
  • If you are a family of 4 making $45,775 a year or less... you might be the 47%.
  • If you or your spouse have ever received Unemployment or Disability ... you might be the 47%.
  • If you have a union job... you might not be part of the 47% because you receive enough wages and benefits from your employment to make ends meet, and you may even have a bit left over. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The people look like ants from up here...

When I first heard Ann Romney's attempt to relate to the hardships of average Americans by describing her and Mitt's college days living in a one room basement apartment eating their dinner off an ironing board, I dismissed the story as sheer nonsense; a flat-out fabrication to give the appearance of having struggled their way into the upper class.

But the story is apparently true, and in its truth it sheds light on exactly why the Romneys cannot even begin to relate to the struggles of the average American family, even though they honestly believe they can.

They went through the motions of being humble students who had to tighten their belts and make due, with one crucial exception. They made ends meet by selling off bits of a pile of stock that had been given to Romney by his father. To say that that one detail makes all the difference in the world is an understatement. They believe they struggled, because they went through the motions, but they never truly suffered. They can never relate to the stress of living in that basement apartment, going to school, AND WORKING at the same time. They can't relate to graduating college under a mountain of debt. They can't even relate to paying a mortgage because their first home was bought with money Romney borrowed from his dad.

The key here, and what makes them so repulsive to Americans who actually struggle to make ends meet, is  that they honestly feel like they have suffered financial hardship without having the slightest clue what financial hardship feels like.

Another example of the underlying thought process of the elites is spoken quite eloquently by one of Romney's wealthy donors in that secretly recorded meeting in one of their "quiet rooms." The wealthy donor talks about how hard they work, and how much they sacrifice for their families. They have convinced themselves that people who aren't rich just aren't working hard enough. They can't even comprehend that people all over this country are working and sacrificing just to pay the rent and put food on the table.

These people don't just live in another world, they live in a parallel universe.

What I find most revealing is how comfortable and at ease Mitt looks in the midst of his peers; far from the stiff, uncomfortable and quietly annoyed Romney we see at press conferences and in interviews. I'm sure he is genuinely frustrated by his inability to get the American people to like him, but that's because he doesn't understand that what he is experiencing is his own disdain for the American people reflected back at him.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Under God

I love the look on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's face when he's confronted with the audible vote to revise the DNC party platform to include a reference to God and Jerusalem being the undivided capital of Israel.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Takes vote at DNC to restore God and Jerusalem to Platform

He clearly does not have a decisive two-thirds vote for the amendment, but the teleprompter nonetheless reads, "in the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative.”

So he tries again. And again. Three times in all. And then he proceeds to read the teleprompter.

To me, this is one of many moments in this election when I marvel at how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. This is a beautifully complex moment in American politics, and I would hate to see it be brushed aside as a quirky mishap, though I know that it will be... as easily as that emphatic "NO!" was shrugged off by the teleprompter.

First, I want to address how the original omission of the word "god" from the DNC platform was held up by Fox News pundits as proof that the Democratic Party is "out of touch with the American people." Really? Because I'm pretty sure that convention center was filled with people who were, in fact, Americans.

Next, I want to talk about what I think that audible vote meant. I'm guessing that the vote was about 50% in the negative. That doesn't mean that 50% of those voters don't believe in God; statistically, that is unlikely. But it does mean that about 50% of the people present wanted take a stand against the necessity to include God in our politics. Fifty percent of the delegates present didn't want to snivel at the feet of conservative religious grand-standers who want to dictate which beliefs count as "American."

Lastly, I want to point out the failure of the Democratic Party to live up to the ideals put forth by our own presidential candidate who campaigns on the slogans of "Hope," "Change," and "Forward." Bowing to the religious ideology of the conservative party is more of the same old weak-kneed politics, and to take such a step in the face of clear opposition within the party ranks, is a huge step backward.

So I want to say that I am proud to support a party that is made up of such brave and freethinking citizens who answer to a higher calling than the religious constructs of our so-called leaders; and I want to say that I am disappointed in the leaders that will stand before that group of American delegates and answer instead to the call of the Almighty Teleprompter in the sky.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Religious Freedom vs. Separation of Church and State

Why do politicians make things so difficult?

This whole issue of Catholic organizations not wanting to pay for health insurance for employees which covers birth control has an incredibly SIMPLE solution.

Does a Catholic hospital  (which does not pay taxes) have the right to deny paying for insurance which will cover birth control for its non-catholic employees (who do pay taxes)?

Absolutely! It's a matter of religious freedom, is it not? They shouldn't have to pay for something that they think is morally wrong.

And secular tax money (such as the money paid by the employees in question) should not be given to religious organizations which impose their religious views on their non-religious clients or employees.

So, the above mentioned Catholic hospital should be ineligible to receive government money of any kind, including Medicare and Medicaid.

So simple.

If such legislation were passed, how quickly would these Catholic institutions shut up and pay for women's health insurance?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Urinating Soldiers

I'm assuming we've all seen the pictures of members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines out of North Carolina's Camp Lejeune urinating on fallen Taliban fighters.

My inclination is not to defend these guys because I admire that the US strives to maintain some level of civility in war.

While I hope that these soldiers are properly punished for their behavior, certainly we as a people need a reality check here. Until we can build robots to fight our wars, we can't be shocked when soldiers cross the line of professionalism.

I mean, their profession involves killing people.

Over the years, at the same that the civilian world has been pushing military culture to adopt a more humanitarian and professional attitude, the military has been finding ways separate young enlistees from their consciences in order to make them more efficient and reliable killers. One huge step forward was the move from practicing shooting a bulls eye to practicing shooting a human silhouette  --because many soldiers who practiced shooting a bulls eye target hesitated when there was a human being on the other side of their gun. Another example is that snipers, like the ones in the pictures, cannot go on missions with less than two individuals --because if you leave a man alone with his conscience, he might hesitate to pull the trigger.

So I'm not saying the behavior of the soldiers in question is acceptable; I'm just irritated that everyone is so shocked when things like this happen. What do we as a nation think war is? And what kind of superhuman soldiers do we think are out there fighting? You can't run headlong into a kill-or-be-killed situation, kill, and then switch off the emotions necessary to perform such acts and suddenly have respect the sanctity of life and be reverent of the dead men who were trying to kill you ten minutes ago.