Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Creationists Opposed To Finding Life On Other Planets?

I'm not surprised.  Science is the natural enemy of fundamentalism.  Science answers the question of how.  Religion answers the question of why.  And fundamentalists are fundamentalists in no small part because they can't tell the difference.

It IS Absolutely Crazy That We Don't Ask Millionaires To Pay More In Taxes

And here's why.

The Next Great Battle After Marriage Equality?

One of the, for sure:  a minimum wage that provides a real wage.

"Republicans Ain't Done Nothing For Me!"

At least one Tea Partier "gets it"; that's why he's voting for Hillary.

Drinking Water Pipes Can Be More Than Drinking Water Pipes

They can deliver electricity as well.

Corporate Media Protect Corporate America

That's why stories like this one get buried.

Americans Love Paying Taxes?

Who knew?  Maybe Democrats should stop being so afraid of the issue.

Why Aren't There More Employers Like This One?

One that sets its minimum wage at $70,000 a year.

The High Cost Of Low Wages

$153 billion, to be exact.

Does Government Spending Crowd Out Private Charity?

The short answer appears to be that the opposite may be true.

A Living Legend Of Gossip Tells ALL--About Herself

Two words are all that's necessary from me:  Liz Smith.

Dodd-Frank Is Working!

It's successfully taken on a major opponent:  General Electric.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's To Be Done About The Publicity Whores?

In an Internet age crowded with literally millions of voices, all equally eager to be heard, it is harder than ever for anyone to be heard at all.  One can, of course, do so by the quality of one's content, but there has been and always will be a minority audience for quality content.  Even before the advent of the World Wide Web, it's always been easier to get attention by poking people in the eye than by appealing to their better angels.  And with the current ferocity of the competition level, the need and willingness to poke--and poke hard--has grown exponentially.

Of course, Internet or no Internet, the process has basically always been the same, and should be familiar to everyone.  Step one:  Make a provocative statement about one or more people in the public eye.  Step two:  Wait for the media to document the public backlash toward your behavior, thereby generating publicity and financial opportunity for you.  Step three:  make the most insincere, half-hearted apology possible--just enough of an apology to take your self-generated heat off of you, but not so much that your followers know (wink, wink) have any doubt about your true feelings.  Step four:  Let the apology be a source of even more publicity, leading to even more financial opportunity. And, as they say in the shampoo business, lather, rinse, repeat.

So no one should be surprised that the wife of the Israeli Interior Minister, who apparently is an Israeli media figure in her own right, has been kvelling (to borrow a word) over the publicity she has generated around the world over a racist anti-Obama tweet she has since deleted.  After she deleted it, however, she apologized on Twitter no fewer than three times--just to make sure that we remembered her.

Never mind, for now, what this says about the state of U.S.-Israeli relations, which are depressingly poor.  This ugly episode raises the larger issue of what to do about such publicity whores?  And be assured:  I do not use the last word in the previous sentence lightly.  A publicity whore is just that: someone, male or female, who will sell themselves for the sake of being in the public eye, however briefly or notoriously.  Clearly, the wife of the Israeli Interior Minister, by her actions, has demonstrated that she fits the definition.

So, what should be done?  Should her apology be accepted?  No: it is transparently insincere.  Should be be shunned, or banned from social media?  No: that would give her a martyrdom she does not deserve.  Should she be publicly attacked, either through her social media accounts or otherwise?  No: see previous reason.

I propose instead the following solution.

Bombard her social media account with positive messages.  Remind her constantly of what a great President Obama is.  Tweet her Obama quotes, Michelle quotes, Sasha and Malia quotes.  Send her the entire text of the ACA, section by section--or, better yet, this past week's Supreme Court decision upholding the ACA, sentence by sentence.  Keep this up at such a pace that she has no chance to respond, much less send out any further advertisements for herself (thank you, Norman Mailer).

Eventually, she'll get the message.  And maybe, if we could summon enough energy and dedication to do this to all of the publicity whores, we could drive them out of business, one by one.  One can always hope, anyway.

Maryland's Governor Plays Racial Politics With Public Transportation

Let's get one thing out of the way at the top of this conversation.  Governor Larry Hogan announced this week that he has a form of cancer, for which he will be receiving treatment while continuing to handle as much of his official duties as possible.  As one family man to another, and as someone who believes in treating everyone decently whether they agree with you or not, I wish the governor well in his battle for his health.  Nothing I say subsequently changes or should detract from that fact.

Which is just as well.  Because I find the Governor's subsequent decisions regarding the fates of the Red Line and Purple Line transit projects to be appalling.

Hogan has decided to pull the plug entirely on the Red Line, arguing that the project does not justify its expense.  Miraculously, however, he has decided to continue with the Purple Line, provided that certain financial conditions are met--not the least of which is greater financial support from Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, the two jurisdictions where the line will be located.

Hogan could just as easily imposed similar conditions on the construction of the Red Line, allowing it to move forward and contribute to the rebuilding and revitalization of Baltimore neighborhoods. Doing so, in the aftermath of the post-Freddie Gray riots, would have been a symbol of hope to a city that could badly use all the hope it can get.  Doing so would have demonstrated the Republican Governor's ability to rise above party politics, and do the right thing when it comes to the redevelopment of a largely Democratic city.  That, after all, is the brand of politics the Governor committed himself to when he campaigned and won last year's election.

Instead, Hogan is playing the race card in an amazingly ugly way.  With an eye on re-election, he uses the prospect of the Purple Line to entice voters from the largely white Washington suburbs, while using the withdrawal of support for the Red Line as a means for punishing a predominantly black city, and its Mayor, whom he blames for the lack of police response that allowed the riots to spread and shut down the city.

As I have said on previous occasions, I hold no brief for Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  The Mayor is a reverse-racist of the first magnitude, as those who have had personal dealings with her (my wife included) can easily attest.  No one who knows her family history should be surprised by that; her late father, state Delegate Howard Rawlings, played the race card with rhetoric that was as ugly as his tactics.  No doubt Hogan, in his riot-related dealings with Madame Mayor, picked up on that fact and reacted badly to it.

But to react so badly that you would deliberately take an action to punish an entire city amounts to a dereliction of duty--and a betrayal of the Governor's oath of office and public commitment to rise above party politics.  And Baltimore has been punished enough--first by white racism, and then by black racism.  Racism is racism.  It doesn't matter who is being oppressed for their skin color; no one should be oppressed for that reason.  Rawlings-Blake will, thankfully, not be mayor one day. When that happens, Baltimore may yet get a decent mayor.  But he or she will needlessly have to start from scratch to build public support for the mass transit Baltimore desperately needs.

For the sake of a few votes in the next election, Larry Hogan is playing the most craven game of racial politics that can be imagined.  Wish the Governor well in his fight for his health.  But pray that, along the way, there is some sort of healing for his soul--something that leads him to put aside his issues with Baltimore's current mayor, and do the right thing for the city's people, black and white.

To Flag, Or Not To Flag? That Is The Confederate Question

As I stated in my previous post, the tragic shootings in Charleston have produced one sign of hope for race relations in this country--the willingness of public officials in South Carolina, including this one, to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state's official flag, and the subsequent willingness of other southern states, such as Mississippi, to follow suit.  Even more surprising was watching this willingness morph from the public to the private sector, with companies such as Amazon and Wal-Mart refusing to sell merchandise using or displaying some version of the flag.

But, of course, the Newtonian nature of our politics dictates that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  As the ban-the-flag movement started to pick up serious steam, it was predictable that the die-hards on the other side would start to draw a line in the shifting sands.  And draw they have.  As a consequence, it did not take long for their allies in the Republican Party to push the overstatement of their stance to ridiculous levels.

Before I offer my take on how far this should go, let's get a few things out of the way.

The Confederate battle flag is not a emblem of regional pride, or "heritage."  It is, without a doubt, historic.  But it is a flag of treason, a treason that was committed in the defense of racism.  Any defense of the flag, for any reason, is ultimately an attempt to deny that history and, in the process, to perpetuate a vicious and destructive lie about the history of this country that led up to, and resulted in, the Civil War.  That's the truth.  Full stop.

As a consequence of that truth, no state that is a part of the United States of America should have any trace of a Confederate emblem of any sort on any flag or other public structure, uniform, building, sign, or anything else that carries with it the power and the authority of government.  We are not two nations.  We are one nation.  The Civil War answered that question for all time.  It is past time for the citizens of southern states to acknowledge and make peace with that fact.  It's a never-ending source of perverse amusement to me that many of those citizens are prominent among those who advocate having an official language.  Well, if we should all be required to speak one language, shouldn't we all pledge allegiance to one flag?

But that said, private displays of the flag should not be banned.  I say that in part as a First Amendment advocate, but I also say it as someone who does not want to feed the persecution complexes of those who do not deserve to feel persecuted.  I also say it as someone who thinks that private displays of Confederate symbols, apart from museums and other repositories of history, serve a rather useful purpose.  It's good to be able to know who the bigots are in your midst.  It dilutes and ultimately destroys their power.  Turning the Confederate battle flag into "forbidden fruit" simply drives racism underground--and gives the racists an anti-government weapon they do not deserve to have.

On the other hand, as long as the ban is limited to State-sponsored displays, it serves a very useful purpose.  It denies the Republican Party an easy push-button mechanism for votes.  That, in turn, may force us once again to have a politics of ideas, and not identities.  One can only hope.