Saturday, March 28, 2015

We Need To Do A LOT MORE Than "Thank" Them

Veterans are justifiably fed up with our collective willingness to "thank" them for their service, and do little else.  And, after being patient with the rest of us for a long time, they're starting to talk about it. It's time for the rest of us to listen--and act on their behalf.

Are Unions Truly Poised For A Comeback?

If BloombergBusiness thinks it's so, perhaps it is.

A Black Judge's Words To White Murderers

They speak for themselves.

The Only Thing That Stops The GOP From Expanding Gun Ownership

The thought that a Democratic constituency might be armed as a result.  Guns for me, but not for thee. Well, at least Republicans are consistent.  Everything for them, nothing for you.

Injecting CO2 Back Into The Earth?

Can this help us reduce climate change?  Take a look.

Hell Freezes Over, Indeed (Part 2)

Why do I still believe in the future?  Because, every so often, the bad guys agree with you, whether it's the Missouri legislator who wants to limit campaign donations, or the terrible U.S. Senate Republican twins from Kentucky supporting the farming of hemp.

Hell Freezes Over, Indeed

A Republican introducing legislation to limit campaign financing?  In Missouri?  Wow!

Choosing Between Life And Liberty

Even though the Declaration of Independence states that we all have the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on top of both, conservatives want you to choose between the two--and to use vaccines, of all things, as the wedge to make you do it.  Keep in mind that they want to deprive your children of vaccines.  Not theirs.  Disgusting.

Could This Be The Beginning Of A Trend?

A Republican becoming a Democrat in Mississippi, to run for office?  Let's all wish him luck.  How wonderful it is that the ACA made him do it.

Houses Of The Future?

Affordable, movable, and (theoretically) even recyclable.

"Religious Freedom" Bills Are About Neither

This past week, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law a bill that allows Hoosiers the right to legally discriminate against any one, for any reason, merely on the basis of a "sincerely-held" religious belief.  It would be bad enough if Indiana was, in this regard, the sad exception that otherwise proved the rule that America is a tolerant county.  But, sadder still, it isn't.  As stated here, Indiana is actually the 20th state to pass such a law.

It states the obvious to say that these laws, which are almost certainly unconstitutional both on their face and in practice, are simply proxies for enabling the hatred that many conservative religious groups feel for the LGBT community.  After all, these groups are by far the most enthusiastic supporters of these bills--and when they express their support for them, their arguments are all about pushing back against the rise of support for marriage equality across the country.  Their focus, in other words, is not on real violations of religious freedom (banning specific religious services, closing churches, and so forth), nor is it on people who "offenses" against orthodoxy might involve non-sexual issues (like mixing wool with linen).  No, what they really want is the power of the state to stand behind their ability to shun LGBT individuals and couples.

Let's think about that for a moment.  Let's start by saying that, hypothetically, we accept the idea that LGBT individuals and couples, by embracing that aspect of their lives openly, are sinners in the hands of an angry God (to borrow a phrase).  I don't.  But it helps us to examine what it is that the "religious freedom" advocates (almost all of whom are Christian in faith) are really asking for the right to do.  What they are asking for is the right to refuse hospitality based on one aspect of human experience--sex.  And even then, they are not asking for the right to refuse service to people who have engaged in heterosexual misconduct (husbands cheating on wives, for example).

In short, they are asking for the right to judge, and refraining from the obligation to love, despite the fact that the Bible contains many more references to caring about outcasts and victims than it does about homosexuality, and reserves to God the right to judge.  The advocates of these bills are not asking for freedom to worship God.  They are asking for the freedom to supplant Him, Her, It or Them.  And no such freedom exists,either in the Bible or everyday life.

And they are also asking for the ability to supplant the power of the state (which is also established in the Bible) with whatever their "sincerity" of the moment inspires them to do.  Today, it may be refusing food service to members of the LGBT community.  Tomorrow, it might be burning them to the stake.  Or, it might be a more intermediate step on the slippery slope--like, say, the right to force them or others to go to church, and not necessarily the church of one's own choice.

Indiana, and the 19 other states that have enacted such laws, have already gone a long way down that slippery slope.  These laws surely can't survive legal challenges.  But, as long as they are on the books, they have the potential to enable things far worse than the refusal of public accommodations. In the short run, the only consolation is the outrage that has arisen against Pence and Indiana--including outrage from those with their own sincerely-held religious convictions.  Thank God for the Disciples of Christ.  Literally.

It is telling that Pence signed this bill behind closed doors, without access to the general public.  He might want to consider the words of 1st Corinthians 4:5, before he enables the ability of others to judge.  I doubt, though, whether he or his supporters would truly understand its implications for them.

What If "Crossing The Line" Means A Mushroom Cloud?

You remember the build-up to the Iraq war.  Would that we could somehow erase it and the actual war from our history.  But we can't.  And, of course, one particularly memorable moment of rhetoric in that build-up came from Condoleezza Rice, then-President Bush's national security advisor.  While the debate raged on about the ability to produce a "smoking gun" in the search for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction (i.e., the ones we gave him to use against Iran, which were thusly used), it was Rice who raised the fear level to DefCom 1 by saying that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

No, we don't, although we ought also to be careful about using loaded phrases like "mushroom cloud" as a quick and easy way of silencing debate.  On the other hand, I read this during the past week, and it gave me a great deal of cause for pause, especially in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress and Tom Cotton's letter to the Iranian government.

Much has been said in the media about both the speech and the letter, including the debate over the question about whether either or both constitute treason.  An uneasy consensus exists that both go up to the line without quite crossing it, at least in terms of legal definitions.  The author of the linked article from Blue Nation Review states that gets even closer to the line without crossing it.

And me?

I don't think we can say whether or not it crosses the line.  And, for me, that might be the most disturbing part of all.

Netanyahu's speech and Cotton's letter, whatever else may be said about them, are complete acts in and of themselves, openly carried out.  Whatever we think about them, we are in a position to fully evaluate both the acts and their consequences, actual and potential.  The story involving Israeli espionage and Congress, on the other hand, is totally different.

What was the nature of the information that was shared?  With whom was it shared?  How was it used?  Did it have consequences for any legislation or executive action apart from Iran?  Was it used in any way for openly partisan purposes?  And, finally, did the use of this information have any adverse consequences for the lives of American citizens, including their safety?  These are only a few of the questions raised by the incomplete information that we have.  But the potential for negative answers is bad enough.

And if the current leaders of Congress are now open to the use of receiving information from foreign governments for their political ends, we are sadly now free to ask about that as well.  What other countries have been sharing information with them?  What is the nature of that information?  How was it obtained?  What rights or interests have been compromised in the process.  As the late Howard Baker would have asked, what did Congress know, and when did they know it?  And, most importantly of all, how did they use it?

If you accept the likely Republican answer to all of these questions (which probably is something along the lines of "None of your business,") you may not have to worry about the death of American democracy, because you may have already killed it.  If you do so in the wake of the long and documented GOP history of sabotaging American interests for short-term election gains, you may not face a mushroom cloud, but you will certainly face the judgment of history, as well as that of your children and grandchildren--and, perhaps, a higher Judgment still.

Have the Republicans gone over the line?  I don't know.  But none of us should take comfort in that lack of knowledge.  And, certainly, none of us should be content to wait until going over the line means a mushroom cloud.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Key To Getting Progressives And The Tea Party On The Same Page

Economics.  Perhaps the TPP can be a starting point for something much bigger.  Let's hope so.

I've Been Urging This For A Long Time

Trees.  They're the perfect way to fight global warming.  And now, others are figuring that out.

The GOP Vision of Holy War, Or, Why I Dare Call Tom Cotton A Traitor

By now, you have probably seen this somewhere on the Web.  Its transparently obvious goal is to end all conversation regarding the patriotism, to say nothing of the wisdom, of Senator Tom Cotton's letter to the Iranian government regarding the alleged ability of Congress to stop a nuclear arms agreement dead in its tracks.  It reflects the basic way in which conservatives argue.  They don't discuss ideas.  They just deal in personalities.  And so, from their perspective, Senator Cotton's military and academic record exempt him from any possible criticism that his anti-Obama tactics could attract, legitimately or otherwise.  (Isn't it interesting, by the way, that an Ivy League degree is an asset in a conservative's eye if the holder of the degree is another conservative?  Always remember, IOKIYAR.)

Except that they don't exempt him, admirable as those accomplishments are.  Because of this.  And because it is far from unfair to consider the two events--the letter and the speech--unrelated.  In fact, the opposition to Obama's negotiations with the Iranian government generally is an important part of the GOP's last ditch efforts to hold together the remnants of the Reagan coalition.

Introducing the new Republican Party:  The Party of Holy War.

Keep in mind that the Reagan coalition had three key components:  Wall Street, the military, and evangelical Christianity.  Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was relatively easy to hold that coalition together in the face of a common enemy:  the Soviet Union.  Doing so in the post-Cold War world, however, has been a much trickier process.  Without an obvious rallying point to bring these three constituencies together, those constituencies have tended to go their own way--and, in the process, provided Democrats with opportunities to make inroads of their own with them.  As a consequence, Wall Street now divides its political contributions much more evenly between Democrats and Republicans than it used to (with disastrous results for progressive goals, unfortunately), and young evangelicals tend toward the left on social issues (like gay marriage and climate change) more than do their elders.

But Holy War against Islam changes all of that.  Holy War can be pitched to Wall Street, as a vehicle for job creation and ensuring the steady supply of oil.  It can be pitched to the military, as a way of ensuring enormous amounts of defense spending.  And it can be pitched to evangelicals, as a means of fighting for their faith against their spiritual enemies.  In short, it permits the creation of a new common enemy to hold together the coalition that, without which, there might not be a Republican Party.

It should surprise no one, therefore, that both Bush Administrations engaged in wars with Iraq, the first time after our ambassador to Iraq all but invited the country to invade Kuwait, and the second time after needed a post-9/11 proxy for combating the terrorists who had attacked us.  We couldn't attack the country that actually provided those attackers--Saudi Arabia--because we needed Saudi oil, and the Bush businesses needed their Saudi connections.  So, we went for Iraq and its invisible WMDs.  And you know how that went.

And now, to prove that they can learn nothing, the Republicans want to take America back to what's left of Iraq--and beyond, into Iran.  An all-but-open invitation to a nuclear nightmare, not only for the United States, but perhaps the world.  Do you expect the party of Holy War to care?  Not when the next election is at stake.

Senator Cotton's letter, and Senator Cotton's speech the next day to defense contractors, are part and parcel of the same organized effort to push the world into the Apocalypse simply for the sake of "being on top" at the end.  This is madness.  This is the worst sort of hubris and vanity.  This is as evil as anything can be.  And it is surely not patriotism.

So yes, I dare call him a traitor.  Him and his co-conspirators.  And I dare to ask every patriotic American to stand in their way during the next election--before it's too late to dare anything.