Thursday, December 31, 2009

Keeping 'em honest

Soon after the attempted Christmas day terrorist attack to blow up flight 253 bound for Detroit, several Republican politicians and talking-head propagandists have been taking full partisan advantage of an opportunity to score some political points. These persons include former Vice President Dick Cheney, Republican strategist Karl Rove, Republican Congressman Peter King, Republican Senator Jim DeMint, and Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra.

Fortunately, the White House is firing back.

And MSNBC, particularly via Rachel Maddow, is keeping them honest.


Yep, you heard it right. In addition to trying to capitalize politically by attacking the President for presiding over a country in which there was a failed terrorist attempt — something they used to claim they deserved to win more elections for — they've sunk even lower now. They are trying to raise money off of terrorism.

I suppose the Republicans are getting desperate for money these days, and if they have learned anything over the past decade, it is that fear & paranoia can be a real cash cow!

In a related issue, I think it is important to set the record straight on something. It has been widely reported among the talking-heads on TV (including Chris Matthews), conservative blogs (including Andrew Sullivan), and certainly from Republican politicians looking to capitalize politically, that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had said that "the system worked" in regards to this terrorist attack.

I, too, thought her remarks (or my understanding of them) to be outrageous; absolutely unacceptable. But while I have no love for the entire concept of the Orwellianesque "Office of Homeland Security", once I did a little more research on this, reviewed the video footage, I have come to realize that the comment truly was taken out of context. The Ms. Napolitano was referring to what the system did after the incident. Which, admittedly, is really not that important a discussion compared to what happened before. It is the before that she and the administration should be focused on. Nonetheless, it is important to keep the proper perspective on all this and to form honest assessments.

In addition, the President has referred to this incident as a systemic failure.

Meet the Press discusses the past & future decades

There was a lot of really good analysis this week on Meet the Press with David Gregory. Guests included: NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Gov. Deval Patrick (D), Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R). They mostly covered the past decade and what is ahead for the United States in the next.

Some highlights below::

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I am convinced


From early on I have been supportive of the war in Afghanistan. Whereas I opposed the war in Iraq, and knew it to be unjustified, unnecessary and reckless, I have believed the opposite is true of the war in Afghanistan. To this day I still support the war there and President Obama's decision to send more troops as part of Gen. McChrystal's counter-insurgency plan.

I recall being very impressed during the presidential campaigns that while many anti-war liberals had begun to turn their propaganda machine against the Afghanistan war, Barack Obama was clear in distinguishing between the unnecessary war in Iraq and the quite necessary war in Afghanistan.

A few years ago, many of those same liberals claimed to know this distinction as well, but somewhere along the lines — perhaps through a taste of increased power by the Democratic party over the reigns of government — their anti-war ideologies kicked in and they decided that Afghanistan is absolutely hopeless and without purpose. I and many others haven't wavered. Should not waver. Certainly not yet. And I feel very comfortable knowing that we have a President who hasn't wavered on this either.

I'll waste no time trying to convince those who foolishly believe that we can somehow negotiate with terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda. But to those who supported the war in Afghanistan — believing it was unfortunate but necessary — who have since changed their mind about our presence there, I urge them to give the President some time.

Give stability in Afghanistan one last chance. Just a few more years could turn things around there. Afterall, it will be the first opportunity this new Administration has had yet. And it will be their only chance. Even Gen. McChrystal and others have stated that we really only have one last opportunity to turn things around there, and if we can't accomplish this in the next 2 years then there is nothing else that can be done.

It is absolutely vital that the area is made more secure. Vital to the region. Just because the Bush administration dithered for 7 long years, this is no reason to throw up our hands and resign ourselves, Afghans and the entire region as a whole to defeat.

What is it that makes me so sure that all of this is worth it? A lot of things, including the firm belief that the consequences of failing are far, far worse than trying. However, three interviews earlier this month on Charlie Rose's program certainly helped reconfirm to me that we are on the correct path.




I highly recommend watching these interviews:
Gen. McChrystal - 12/9/2009
Adm. Mike Mullen - 12/3/2009
John Kerry - 12/2/09


There are no direct links yet at the website, but the interviews are streaming under the "Recent Shows" tab.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Gay' certainly comes in all stripes


There are some highly unusual characters over at the Independent Gay Forum. Dare I say, queer?

I've read articles at the site for at least a year or two, and contributed comments on occasion but rarely followed those of others. It didn't seem that very many people posted there and I was busy with a lot of other, more mainstream forums.

Sometime in the past 6 months or so it seems posting became more frequent at the Independent Gay Forum, and I've been spending more time there.

In that time I've read some very good articles and some interesting, well-informed, intelligent comments. It's very encouraging. But I've also read some patently ignorant, offensive, bigoted garbage, too.

There are clearly many conservatives and even militant Republicans that post there, some of which are just beyond belief. Like the homosexual man who only votes Republican, likes Sarah Palin, reads Anne Coulter, watches Fox News, listens to Rush Limbaugh, despises the 'war on Christmas', clearly isn't fond of Muslims, loves guns and war and hates liberals.

In spite of all this typical, militant conservatism, he also claims to have had 50 sex partners (I suspect that he is younger than 30), assumes that he's safer from disease by using condoms with strangers than trusting to do without the condom with a monogamous partner, and he saw nothing offensive about Adam Lambert's AMA performance. In fact, he seems to look upon Mr. Lambert as some sort of role model who has somehow advanced the homosexual struggle for equality by shoving simulated oral sex into the faces of the mainstream America who was watching the show that night...

Seriously, I could not make this up.

Another right-wing blogger there is far more socially conservative than this. To the point of being fascist. He relies on nauseating, regurgitated propaganda to implicate the entire homosexual population based on the actions of some. Oh, yeah, and we're just as guilty as them if we don't all band together and stop those who engage in inappropriate behavior...

He manages to paint a caricature of homosexuals in general as being sex-crazed hedonists who tend to prey on children and either participate in or defend despicable and/or criminal sexual behavior. Publicly, by the way. And (in his reality), none of us ever get arrested for this, either. Apparently law-enforcement has recently become too afraid of lawsuits to arrest homosexuals for committing crimes. Hmmm... News to me.

He also depicts, what he calls “gay-sex marriage” advocates, as attempting to destroy marriage and society. Oh, and we're hypocrites because most of us don't vote Republican. Why hypocrites? One reason is because we claim marriage is a “basic civil right” {see Loving vs. Virginia} but yet we don't defend adults marrying children and people marrying animals, etc. Ah, but in other posts, to the contrary he claims that we (all) do defend these and other highly controversial forms of marriage. Apparently you can have your cake and eat it, too.

The supposed moral to the story is, “gay-sex marriage” is just a “smokescreen” for destroying marriage and furthering the agenda of the “Obama party”. Yes, he derisively refers to the Democratic party as the “Obama party”.

Speaking of which. We're also, according to this homophobic troll, hypocrites because most of us voted for Barack Obama, who opposes same-sex marriage just as nearly all (or is it all now?) Republicans do. Oh the hypocrisy!

He fails to grasp the obvious flaw in all this specious (and despicable) reasoning of his.

I clued him in on it, and he's still having fits over it. I informed him that President Obama and most Democrats support letting the states decide same-sex marriage, many even support legalizing same-sex marriage; most Democrats support ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell; eliminating the so-called Defense of Marriage Act; ending discrimination against homosexuals in employment (some of which has already gone in place for the Federal government); and the Democrats pushed for and passed a Hate Crimes bill which includes sexual-orientation. (Which, by the way, Democrats had to attach to a defense spending bill to do so. Unscrupulous, I admit, but the damn thing got passed in spite of the groaning and moaning of Republicans, most of which wouldn't dare vote against a defense bill.)

Juxtapose the above to Republicans who have passed constitutional amendments in some 30 states banning same-sex marriage (all in an effort to elect more Republicans, mind you); attempts to pass a national constitutional amendment permanently establishing marriage exclusively for heterosexual couples only; writing and passing DoMA; fighting anti-gay Hate Crimes legislation; opposing court decisions which overturned unconstitutional laws targeting homosexuals, including anti-sodomy laws in Texas; deep opposition to same-sex adoption and even their so-called “compromise” — same-sex civil unions in various states. The list goes on and on...

Yes, yes homosexuals are such “hypocrites” for supporting the only major national party which has actually improved, rather than undermined our efforts for equality. As I informed this blogger the other day, he is the worst example of cognitive dissonance I have ever encountered anywhere.

{Be aware that the rest of this post is dealing rather frankly with sexual content that could be considered graphic to some}

Monday, December 28, 2009

Musings

  • Leave it to the media... In this case TMZ and the Daily Beast. On the "Cheat Sheet" at the Daily Beast the 22nd story was titled, "JFK on a Boat With Naked Women?" which claimed "TMZ has released a previously unpublished photo that appears to show John F. Kennedy tanning on a boat as two naked women jump off into the ocean, and two more tan in the nude on the upper deck. The photo, believed to be taken during a Mediterranean boat trip that then-senator JFK took with brother Ted Kennedy and Senator George Smathers in 1956, has been authenticated by multiple experts."
A bombshell, right!? Wrong. At the same "Cheat Sheet", story number 6 is titled, "Sexy JFK Photo a Fake". According to the story, "TMZ now says that the color photo is a fake: It ran in Playboy in 1967." Does this mean the next time TMZ informs the public of something as if it's verified we can just ignore it? This might be a good idea, yes.

Ah, where's Orly Taitz when you need her?

A revolution whose time has come?

Though I despise violence, I believe in the necessity of revolution at times {when it's justified, Tea Baggers}.

What has been going on in Iran since the elections over the summer has been both heartbreaking and inspiring. To watch as common people and opposition leaders organize to challenge the corruption and oppression of the draconian Ahmadinejad regime is inspiring. And, of course, the violent clashes, the killings, including Neda Agha-Soltan, the police brutality, thuggery among pro-government advocates, the mock trials, torture, imprisonment of political dissidents are all heartbreaking.

I saw this photo this morning in the news and found it very symbolic, powerful.

Protesters — the oppressed lashing out against the oppressors. And at least in this case, having the upper-hand.

It's tragic that in these latest protests several have reportedly been killed, including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi who was reportedly shot in the back. Still, what the Iranian people are doing is heroic. They are standing up to their government which has disenfranchised them. They are trying to shape their destiny in any way they can whilst living under a regime that isn't accountable, doesn't heed the will of the people and is not open to change. Among other things, they seek more representation, basic civil rights like freedom of speech and assembly, and of course the most basic of all, they seek human rights.

That is what, to me, makes all this inspiring.

I hope that we here in the U.S. and the West in general will give the people of Iran as much support as we can. But I also believe we must tread cautiously in doing so.I don't believe that we should meddle too much in these domestic affairs, 1) because I believe it best for our nation to avoid foreign entanglements as George Washington once warned our young nation, 2) because it will only bolster the claims by the regime and Islamic extremists that the United States is imposing its will, and that the discontent among the common-folk is manufactured.

We should also take heart that here, in what is often depicted as enemy territory by neoconservative ideologists, Muslims are rebelling against oppression, against a regime that acts in defiance of world security, and they are clamoring for a more democratic form of government. It reconfirms that there are indeed moderates to be found among Muslim nations; there is hope that terrorism and Islamic extremist ideology can be countered by the very people who are sought to be recruited to it; and democracy can be both compatible with and welcomed by the peoples of the Middle-East without having to drop bombs to convince them.


Newsweek article on the presumed spiritual leader of the reform movement, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri
Newsweek article on the experiences of journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was held captive by the Iranian regime for 4 months
[EDIT: An interesting article at the Daily Beast about the growing civil rights/revolution in Iran]

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Musings

  • Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch was was quoted as in a Time magazine article about the future of information technology: "A hundred years out, one of two things is going to happen: either we're going to nuke ourselves into the Stone Age, or we're going to perfect virtual reality, like Second Life. I mean, imagine, we can just plug in and be anything we want to be and do anything we want to do. We'll never unplug."
And critical-thinking would disappear, our intrinsic humanity would cease to exist, and life would have no purpose. No thanks. Honestly, I'd rather we nuke ourselves back to the Stone Age.
  • "[Sarah Palin is] the only thing between 2004 and 2009 that's ever given any energy to the Republican Party—No. 1, because she's a woman, and No. 2, because she expresses herself well." ~ Sen. Chuck Grassley
Really... So Chuck finds her to be articulate with her combination of folksy metaphors and disjointed syntax (A.K.A. Palinisms)? Well, I suppose when you consider the lack of substance, she is good at expressing that...

I also find the hypocrisy quite telling that while Democrats who are intrigued by Barack Obama's African-American heritage are accused by right-wingers as being racist, these same folks don't see it as sexist when Republicans are intrigued by Sarah Palin's gender.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Total economic collapse?

Or at least a Dow that will crash to well below it's recent worst back in March of this year. This, according to Robert Prechter, who bases his predictions on mathematical formulas which he developed from studying Ralph Nelson Elliot, an accountant and market forecaster from the 1930's.

Apparently his predictions are accurate — the changes in the market that he predicts do tend to happen — but they are generally off by several years.

I'm certainly no economist, and I don't have much to base this guess on other than instinct and what seems to me as common sense, but I have been convinced that the economic collapse we saw at the end of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009 was merely a hiccup. While it was framed as at the edge of a total global economic collapse, I don't really believe it was. Instead, I have believed that this is what would follow if we continued doing what we have been doing — (including, but not limited to) running huge trade deficits, exporting more manufacturing jobs than we're creating, relying heavily on a consumer-based economy, not significantly increasing our agrarian production, and allowing banks to operate largely unregulated.

One year later and nothing has really changed, except unemployment is a lot higher, millions of Americans have had their homes foreclosed, the nation is a lot farther in debt, and while we were told that many banks had simply become "too big to fail" (they were too big to exist, without question), they're even bigger now! Or as Andrew Ross Sorkin refers to it, they are "too big to fail²".

Our solution seems to be to get back to massive, needless consumerism. Oh, and to inflate the next unsustainable bubble until it, too, pops. This is, of course, no sustainable solution at all. And so, we didn't just avoid economic Armageddon last year — economic Armageddon is still yet to come. And if it does it will be due not just to extreme greed, recklessness and corruption, it will also be due to the lack of competence and conviction of our political leaders and representatives.

Check out this article at TIME.

I also highly recommend checking out Charlie Rose's interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin from October 19 of this year. No direct link is available at the website, but you can find the interview at the website under the "Recent Shows" tab.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The American Dream

Here lately I have noticed, with the bad economy and debates about capitalism, etc. taking place, I've been thinking about what the American Dream is. To me, the American Dream for most folks would include at least these three things:
  • Owning your own home and automobile
  • Giving your children a better life & better opportunities than you had
  • For your standard of living to generally increase rather than decrease throughout your lifetime

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The politics behind the reverse on principles

We may have some answers now as to why the Obama administration has reversed course on several campaign promises. Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weiskopf wrote a revealing article for TIME magazine a few weeks ago. In it, they detail some of the events leading up to and following President Obama and members of his staff deciding to end the use of torture techniques against suspected terrorists, suspend the constitutionally dubious practice of indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists without charge or trial, to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, to release photos and memos of the abuse of suspected terrorists by U.S. agents, and to hold trials of several suspected terrorists in a conventional court of law in New York.

Some of these decisions have been reversed since the administration took more principled stands, like releasing the torture photos, ending military tribunals and suspending indefinite detainment without charge or trial. Others just simply haven't been fulfilled yet, like the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

While some of these decisions may have been practical, like the photos and military tribunals, others appear to be simply political. I find this seriously disappointing. Our country is not showing leadership, or "leading by example" as President Obama dubs it, when it comes to human rights and civil liberties by continuing or even embracing the same sort of unconstitutional methods that the Bush administration had relied on for years. This is not what many of those who voted for Mr. Obama, myself included, expected when we cast our votes and it's certainly not what we were promised.

Some are choosing to defend the administration on the grounds that Mr. Obama had made promises that, once given a more complete view of all the details and consequences of such decisions, were deemed too impractical or risky to do from a national security standpoint. Even assuming this were true, then he never should have made such principled arguments and promises in the first place. This claim would also illustrate that he possessed a lack of experience and breadth of knowledge of these situations. Which in turn would strongly suggest, considering that he spoke out so assuredly in spite of his inadequate awareness, a real lack of responsibility on his part.

There was one thing about the article I found particularly misleading:
"The President was moving away from some promises he had made during the campaign and toward more moderate positions, some favored by George W. Bush. At the same time, he quietly shifted responsibility for the legal framework for counterterrorism from [former top White House lawyer, Greg] Craig to political advisers overseen by [chief of staff, Rahm] Emanuel, who was more inclined to strike a balance between left and right."
Correction, anyone who has made even a cursory examination of Rahm Emanuel's past practices in politics would know that he is more inclined to make his decisions based solely on political expediency. It has nothing to do with striking ideological balances.

On my soapbox

I saw a story at the Daily Beast and, for some reason, I just had to vent:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Musings

  • Ex-justice of the peace, Keith Bardwell, who refused to marry an interracial couple in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, recently claimed, "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way."

Ah, yes, and that sort of focus on race and a misguided concern about races "mixing" would, by definition, qualify as racism, which would make you, a racist...

This reminds me of those anti-gay types who claim they don't have a problem with gay people, they just don't think they should have to hire us, or serve alongside us in the military, or have their kids taught by us in schools, or have to share their exclusive right to marriage with us.
 
  • This week on the Wanda Sykes show, the guests were discussing stereotypes on television, specifically the embarrassment that is 'Jersey Shore' on MTV. Wanda said, "I'm like this. Hey — black people — we've had to put up with 'Flavor of Love' for years, so. Hey, deal with it... We're looking at it and going, 'White people are looking at this! I'm going to have to kill everybody on that show."
Exactly! This is exactly how I felt as a homosexual watching Adam Lambert's lewd performance at the American Music Awards — Straight people who haven't had a great deal of real life experiences with us are watching you act like some sort of hedonistic dominatrix.

  • Queerty.com asks the loaded question, "Is This Really Too Offensive To Ever Show America?" accompanied with this picture: 


Nope, I don't think so, but I think this



was probably too offensive to display at the American Music Awards, yeah.
Particularly at this point in our struggle for equality, when we should be trying to be taken seriously.

And that is my reason for disliking this whole fiasco, regardless how those with the political-correctness agenda want to frame it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How to spot a bigot...

I read this article at the Independent Gay Forum the other day and it got me to thinking about bigots and the difference between bigotry and mere prejudice.

I really do believe there is a distinction, one that many of us, including myself, aren't always so good at acknowledging. I know that I've been a bit too quick to use the term "bigot" to describe those who propagate negative stereotypes about homosexuals, marginalize our legal inequalities, and either support or even vote to deny same-sex couples marriage (not unlike racists who were outraged after the Supreme Court overruled anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 and would have voted to ban interracial marriage if they would have had such an option).

In spite of the prejudices they cling to, and the damage they cause, I realize that while I certainly oppose their view — believing they are misguided, misinformed, and probably selfish and/or careless — many of them probably don't quite add up to the definition of bigot.

So what would that definition be? Well, that depends on your dictionary — they're all over the place. But I decided to put together a list of what I believe are some important criteria:
  • is the intention of the person espousing their belief hostile, including the unapologetic use of words they know to be insulting?
  • do they tend to resort to sweeping generalizations about entire groups of people as opposed to making important distinctions about individuals?
  • are they seemingly incapable of making somewhat reasonable arguments supporting their view?
  • is there an unwillingness to be challenged or admit that their view may be flawed?
  • are they closed-minded to genuinely considering and understanding contradicting views?
  • is there a refusal to accept new information which might undermine their belief?
  • do they seem devoid of much sympathy or empathy with the group of people they are not comfortable with?
  • do they really even understand what they believe and why?
The last one is a bit complicated. Because, in my opinion, it can either suggest that they are completely irrational in their view, and thus would certainly be by definition bigoted in their beliefs, or it could be that they've never really known anything else and in a sense they just don't know any better. Such a person might not be accurately described as a bigot. It would depend on how they stacked up on the other criteria.

I'd say that if you could describe a person or their actions as fitting more than 3 of these then they probably are a bigot. But then it also depends on which ones and the severity...

In the end, I think perhaps whether or not one is a bigot is just one of those things one knows when they see it.

In the future, I am going to try to be a bit more careful about when I apply the word. But make no mistake, bigots do exist and few of them ever imagine themselves to be as blindly prejudiced, intolerant, unreasonable & backward as they indeed are.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Musings

I have decided to try something new. I often read little blurbs in magazines or hear remarks on TV that, to me, really seem to get at the heart of something or really illicit a response, but, there is no venue to do so. Then I realized, well, yes, actually there is. Right here.

This is what I will be doing with my posts titled (and taggged) 'musings'... Consider it sort of like a twitter feed (which I don't have, nor want), only less constrained and with more substance.

  • According to James Poniewozik in Time magazine a few weeks ago, Sarah Palin said on Oprah Winfrey's show, "You don't need a title to make a difference..."

This is true. One certainly does not require a title, like governor, to achieve some improvement in one's community. However, in regards to you, Ms. Palin, and your former title as Governor of Alaska, you were elected to a public office. Chosen among the residents of Alaska to fulfill that duty to the best of your ability, providing responsible leadership and honestly representing your constituents for one term. You made it half way through that term and then decided to quit.

You gave up, and shirked a huge responsibility in the process. That was your decision to make and now you must accept certain consequences of that decision. Don't expect to be respected for it. And don't expect folks to take you seriously as a political figure in the future. There really is no legitimate reason to entrust you with public office again.


  • Apparently at a closed-door, no-cameras-allowed event held for Sarah Palin, she instructed her audience of sycophants: "Don't let anyone ever tell you to sit down and shut up."
Don't worry, I won't. I will not be marginalized; I will not be disenfranchised; and I will not be silent. This is directed especially to those social conservatives who think they can dictate people's personal lives through legislation, as well as those "populist" fascists like yourself who think you are the arbiters of what qualifies as "real America" and "real Americans".

  • On Friday's edition of Hardball, when setting up his segment with Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Chris Matthews said of anthropogenic climate-change deniers who incessantly stand in the way of efforts to limit carbon-emissions and convert the nation & world to greener technologies, "we're not going to appeal to the far right; we're not going to appeal to the deniers watching tonight because they do not want to hear anything that gets in the way of their piggish attitudes. But let's talk about those who would like to save this planet for future generations and don't just want to eat it up between now and their own personal retirements."
That basically sums up the mentality of these disingenuous people right there — complete and utter selfishness. They'd rather save their bottom lines today and score political points than save the lives, property, environment and expense of future generations who will without doubt suffer greatly on all four fronts from our inaction today. Disgusting.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Highlights from President Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech

I was very impressed with the President's Nobel peace prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway. I was proud as an American to have a President who is as able to convey such a sincere, high-minded and articulate message to the world. I also agreed with most of his sentiments.

Below are some highlights from the speech. The entire transcript can be found here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thank you, Chris Matthews!

Chris Matthews had a good show on Wednesday. A testy exchange between Republican neoconservative apologist Ron Christie and left-wing, son of the former President, Ron Reagan.


They discussed the joke that is Dick Cheney, though it's not a damn bit funny that this amoral former Vice President and not-yet-convicted war criminal, has gone on the rampage again, declaring that the current President of the United States is giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy through some of his policies. Chris is exactly right, this is constitutional language, an accusation of treason.

Ron Christie is so devoid of integrity; he's just a Republican propagandist and, as Chris Matthews introduced him, a "long-time loyalist to Dick Cheney", of which he seems to be quite proud. This speaks volumes to his lack of character and scruples.

This was just the latest example in what a truly despicable, evil man, Dick Cheney is, to advocate so vociferously for torture, to be such a proponent for detaining people without trial or even charge, indefinitely, and lest we forget, it was through his lies and manipulation that we were dragged into the unethical, unnecessary morass that has been the Iraq War.


Later on the show, Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson (though correct in his sentiment) showed what I thought was a real lack of class for an elected representative of the people when he responded to a question about Dick Cheney's most recent accusations of treason against our sitting President.


When asked by Chris Matthews, "How far is [Dick Cheney] going to go so he gets to speak at the next Republican Convention?" To which Congressman Grayson responded, "I don't know. You know, on the Internet, there is an acronym that is used to apply to situations like this. It's STFU. I don't think I can say that on the air, but I think you know what that means."

Shut the fuck up. Yes, and Cheney most definitely needs to do so. He's done enough irreparable harm to this country and really should be in a prison somewhere, but that remark was seriously juvenile for a man of his position. By the way, I think Mr. Cheney has already landed that speaking gig at the Republican convention.

But this from Congressman Grayson was just hilarious: "I remember Bush Jr. kissing Prince Abdullah on the cheek... ...and then holding his hand for an extended period of time. Maybe if he let him get to second base, then gasoline would be $1 a gallon."

Seriously, to all those who are criticizing the President for having showed a sense of decency and respect in bowing to the Japanese Emperor, as is in keeping with Japanese culture and custom, shut the fuck up. Where were your criticisms during the frequent truly humiliating blunders of George "Dubya" Bush on his misadventures abroad? And strolling in the garden holding hands with the Saudi King, the Saudis who are far more an enemy to the interests of this country than the Japanese will ever be!


An interesting bit of information came up on this show. Bruce Springsteen, of which I am a fan, declined to perform at the inauguration of newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie, who is a huge Springsteen fan. Many celebrities would have just taken the money, but Mr. Springsteen, a Democrat, put principle ahead of money. Good for him.


I saved the best for last, Chris defined progressivism and contrasted it to a more radical approach:
"A progressive is somebody that moves along step by step, so that everybody can get aboard, so that we have a democratic process that gets aboard this new change that we're going into."


"A radical is someone who wants everything the way they want it now." ~ Chris Matthews

BINGO! This is why, though I am conservative/libertarian in regards to certain issues, I have long considered myself to be largely a progressive. Not a "liberal" pushing more radical, immediate, fundamentalist-type change. No. A "progressive" who mostly supports moving forward gradually, deliberatively, reasonably, sensibly, creating consensus along the way and achieving better results because of it. I have no patience and no tolerance for those who undermine this and generally pursue radicalism.

And yes, there are a lot of liberals these days, like Congressman Grayson, who call themselves progressives in an effort to appear more moderate, but they're not.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Some of us still support decency

A contributor to the Independent Gay Forum has the right idea about the harm that stunts like Adam Lambert's at the American Music Awards can inflict on our community by perpetuating stereotypes of licentiousness. It's a good article with some great points. This segment summed it up nicely:
"Adam Lambert, you may say that “I’m not trying to lead the fucking way for the civil rights movement that we’re in right now,” but the fact is that we ARE in a struggle for our civil rights and you are a pop culture figure (thanks in no small part to the support of gays and gay allies.)

"We are in a dangerous moment. Our political allies are quickly backing away from us, thanks to losses on gay marriage in California and Maine and the Democratic loss of the governorship in New Jersey.

"Whereas just over a year ago it seemed like gay marriage was an inevitable wave sweeping the country - and a tsunami in New England, New Jersey and New York — now it feels like the tide has turned. The hate crimes bill victory was followed by a vicious hate crime in Puerto Rico. We have hearings on ENDA, which could go either way. We have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hearings which are being put off until 2010. We have a President who isn’t sure he is our friend.

"And what is the mainstream most worried about, Adam Lambert? Why are they afraid of our partnerships, our service to our country, our working lives, our families? They are worried because they think gay life is exactly what you portrayed on the American Music Awards: focused on the kind of sex that turns people into animals (almost literally, in this case, with crawling dancers leading you on leashes), geared toward enticing children (ABC is a network owned by Disney, for heaven’s sake), degrading, rapacious, empty.

"This is why mainstream America votes against gays, Adam Lambert. Not because of people who have families and jobs and bills and weddings. Because of people like you, who use sexuality thoughtlessly in order to advance your own agenda, instead of thinking about the very real consequences your actions will have on others’ civil rights."


Here's my comment. Naturally, Mr. Lambert has his defenders, people that seem to want to just keep pushing that envelope on what qualifies as decent. Or do they want to completely remove the concept of decency? I wonder...

I've been having an exchange with one guy who defends Mr. Lambert as a gay artist he can "admire"... Seriously? Might I suggest we aim higher... My latest post.

There was some very pithy comments in opposition to Mr. Lambert's performance, and the support of it.

Highlights:


[REDACTED: the blogger whose quotes were here turned out to be a homosexual-hating bigot with an agenda to work against the equality movement]

"Why should I care about getting rid of the double standard so that Adam Lambert can portray oral sex on stage when I think the standard is awful?" ~ Jorge

Alas, brevity is not a gift I have yet acquired.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

More misguided defense of Adam Lambert

More knee-jerk over-reaction from some members of the homosexual community. Some are all fired up, invoking "bigotry" and "hypocrisy", and ready to start a boycott. Soon to follow from the anti-homosexual crowd: more claims that the gay community yet again defends the indefensible. All this because Adam Lambert has been criticized to some degree and apparently censored by ABC for his lewd performance at the American Music Awards.

I believe in calling out bad behavior when I see it, and that goes for my community as well. We take a lot of flak for being an "immoral" crowd. I believe in challenging both those who claim this, and those among us who make this portrayal seem an accurate description. My comment at Queerty.com. Another comment at The Daily Beast.



[EDIT:]

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Theocons hijacking political system; time to turn up the heat

Harry Jackson is an outspoken bishop who has become a celebrity among right-wing groups for his dogmatic stance against same-sex marriage, including extensive lobbying in an effort to deny marriage to same-sex couples. He spent a great deal of time and effort trying to prevent any sort of recognition in Washington, D.C. of same-sex marriage, but recently failed in that endeavor.

He has since been virtually declaring war against politicians who do not uphold his theological views. A clear attempt to thwart our constitutional prohibition of church and state, I'm wondering when the feds are going to cut his religious organization's 501(c)(3) tax-exemption status...

Obviously our community is coming under increasing attack from bigots who have been thus far adept at using a tyranny of the majority to legislate away our civil rights; the ugly dark side of democracy — popular sovereignty.

Much of this is desperation from the fact that the anti-homosexual crowd have been losing ground. Even as same-sex marriage has been banned in over 30 states, and both California and Maine has stripped same-sex couples of an established right to civil marriage, the gay rights movement has won on many fronts, including legal protections against hate crimes, against discrimination in employment and housing, more recognition by the federal government, recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and polls indicate more support for same-sex marriage than ever before. Five states also currently do or soon will perform and recognize same-sex marriages.

At this point it seems clear that it is only a matter of time before they will have lost in their effort to codify theology into our government and deny equal protection and due process to homosexuals and same-sex couples. Nonetheless, we are really going to have to turn up the heat if we are to achieve justice. We're going to have to be smarter about our battles, more organized, and more focused on the issue. In fact, I think it is time for us to become single-issue voters on homosexual equality.

I would normally never support single-issue voting, but considering how small a minority we are and what we are fighting for and against, I think it would be in our best interest to mostly let this issue guide us in who wins our votes. Those who favor homosexual equality and vote accordingly should get our support, even if we disagree with them on most every other issue. Those who do not represent our interest should be ruthlessly opposed. Also, we need to demand that our government uphold I.R.S. statutes and have tax-exemption status removed from those churches and religious organizations who entangle themselves in politics.

In the meantime, we have to continue pressing our case in other ways. Organizing, educating, enlightening, countering prejudice and propaganda where we find it. My letter to Bishop Jackson, via his church website:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Why I watch the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

The Newshour program with Jim Lehrer is about to undergo a fifth name-change since it's creation in 1975.

On Monday the program will become the PBS Newshour. The plan is to work more with local Public Television stations and integrate more with the Internet. Other than that, while there will be some changes to the format there doesn't appear to be any drastic changes and the new program will retain the same lineup of journalists who have been filing reports on the show for years and one new correspondant — Hari Sreenivasan.

I have seen no definite word on whether lead anchor Jim Lehrer will be leaving the show in the foreseeable future. I certainly hope not. I really do appreciate his style of honest, un-opinionated coverage and his dispassionate demeanor.

Speaking of style, on Friday night's program at the end of the name-change segment, Mr. Lehrer described the guidelines that are a part of the "MacNeil-Lehrer" journalism that has been the heart of the show for well over two decades now: 
  • Do nothing I cannot defend.
  • Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
  • Assume there is at least one other side, or version to every story.
  • Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.
  • Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
  • Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
  • Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.
  • Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions.
  • No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
  • I am not in the entertainment business.
Brilliant! The show represents quality journalism, an invaluable resource today, which puts mainstream media coverage and the partisan infotainment of MSNBC and FoxNews to shame.

This style of journalism should be required study for anyone pursuing a journalism major.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Well done, Mr. President

Due to some personal issues in my life at the moment, I am not going to provide as much detailed commentary as I had planned, but I will say that I was very impressed with President Obama's speech at Westpoint this past Tuesday on the "Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan". I emphatically agree with his take on the Afghanistan situation, our role in it, and why we should put an increased focus in gaining stability for the region. I've always been impressed with how Mr. Obama (supposedly the uber-liberal) has shown himself to be a pragmatist who understands that sometimes war is, in fact, necessary. I've also been impressed that he has shown himself to be someone who correctly knows the difference between necessary wars and unnecessary, unlike those who ran against him in 2008.

In spite of naysayers, I believe the President gave a great deal of deliberation on the matter, far more so than President Bush ever did. While Karl Rove may claim that it took Bush & Co. 50+ days to "remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan", and though he may pontificate about how long it took President Obama to make what I believe is a wise decision in Afghanistan, I would bring to his and his apologist's attention that the Bush administration that he was a part of had 8 long years to create real stability in Afghanistan and they failed. I would also remind Karl Rove and his apologists that the current President is having to send tens of thousands more U.S. combat troops to keep the Taliban from returning to power & al-Qaeda from re-gaining a safe haven in Afghanistan 8 long years after Bush & Co. supposedly made defeating both a priority...

Seriously, after 8 long years of dithering, these imbeciles who are a shame to their country should refrain from trying to score partisan political points and instead support this President who is showing a real commitment to repairing their monstrous fuck up. At least give him two years, a quarter of the time you had, then you can run your hypocritical mouths all you want.

My other thought on this development about the troop build-up is that, though I expected as much, I'm very disappointed by some of the reaction on the left to the President's decision. There is so much disingenuousness from the likes of Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, some members of Congress, and various left-wing pundits and bloggers. Comedian Bill Maher even took it upon himself to refer to the President as "Barry", which was as immature as those knuckle-dragging, uninformed, right-wing conspiracy theory nuts who have invented the myth that Barack Obama was born "Barry Obama" and later changed his name to Barack, like some sort of militant Black Panther member. Mr. Maher also went on to dishonestly compare President Obama's speech to Mr. Bush's.

I'd like to remind some of these people that in addition to the fact that al-Qaeda have repeatedly used terrorism against us and our allies and have vowed to do so again, and in addition to the fact that regaining a safe haven in Afghanistan is a threat to our national security, that many of these folks used to claim in their opposition to the Iraq war that Afghanistan was indeed the legitimate war all along. And just because they may have used this claim to dispel accusations that they were, in fact, anti-war peaceniks who oppose war at all costs for naive ideological reasons, they should know that some of us are going to hold them to their words and their positions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The neverending debate...

An interesting article over at The Washington Post regarding how benefits for same-sex couples are expanding even as the same-sex debate rages on and the losses for our community mount.

This ties into a very brief article over at the Gay Agenda.com where I left a comment.

I also left a comment over at The Daily Beast. Naturally, the usual long-winded, vitriolic, impassioned debate ensued. Some highlights:

Challenging the arguments in favor of substituting same-sex civil "unions" for same-sex civil "marriage" as a compromise (here and here).

Turning around the claim that conservative Christians who make a habit out of judging and lecturing homosexuals aren't hateful, they're doing it out of "love".

There was lots of debunking the typical canards about homosexuals being disproportionately pedophiles. Some people love to cling to the notion that men who have sex with male children are "homosexuals". Too bad for them that intellectual honesty gets in the way. If one wants to be less technical about differentiating sexual orientations (and be consistent) then one could claim that men who have sex with male children are homosexuals but we'd have to proclaim that men who have sex with female children are heterosexuals.

One genius, who calls him/herself, "thinkitout"opined:
"Gay Rights: If gay rights are passed, what is going to prevent two guys, or two women, that are not Gay, to move in together and claim theiy are Gay, just to get the benefits of a married man and woman? Would they have to perform, to prove that they are Gay. Why not give the same rights to non Gay couples that just live together and are not married?"
Next time, try thinking it through... The obvious answer was succinctly provided by another blogger in the form of a question: "What prevents a man and a woman from getting married just for benefits?"

And I must say, one blogger pulled out an argument that I've never seen used before, and for someone that has debated this issue as much as I have, that's saying something:
"when muslims look at america and seening same sex couplesare entiled to the same benfits a man and a woman are entitled do it makes them believe rightly so that we are a heathen nation and should be destroyed as was SODOM ANd gomorrah and if GOD wont they will guite simply."
In other words, if we hope to stop terrorism by Islamist extremists we should probably do as certain Christianist extremists would have us do here and outlaw homosexuality completely and segregate homosexuals from society, or eradicate us altogether... New argument against equality for gays: we must appease terrorists.

Of course, they weren't all negative. Not at all. A good supportive post here. And this one was brief but covered a lot of the important bases.

Now there were numerous posts by a blogger who obsessively comments — almost exclusively — on threads dealing with homosexuality.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boy takes principled stand for equality

Last week I heard about a young boy from Arkansas who had decided that he would not stand to recite the pledge of allegiance while homosexuals in this country are treated like second-class citizens. I thought it was very touching that someone would take such a principled stand, but the fact that it was by someone so young made this truly extraordinary.

The boy, Will Phillips, a ten-year-old in fifth-grade, has said during a CNN interview, “I looked at the end and it said "with liberty and justice for all." And there really isn't liberty and justice for all. There's -- gays and lesbians can't marry. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world, yes.” 

How right he is. Our nation was founded on principles of "liberty and justice for all". Though, as slavery, segregation, persecution of Native Americans, and the denial of equal rights for women can attest, our country has often failed to uphold this most noble of principles. And, though so much inequality has been reversed, much still exists today. In particular, government discrimination against homosexuals is probably the most glaring example of all in our time.

Young Will also said on CNN, “I've grown up with a lot of people, and good friends, that are gay.... I think they should have the rights all people should.” From the mouths of babes. It's amazing how obvious fairness and treating others as equals can be to someone who hasn't been conditioned to let prejudices warp his sense of right and wrong. A lot of adults in this country could learn some very important lessons from this young man. Perhaps if they had spent time around some of us, as this young man apparently has, he'd see us for the human beings we are and judge each of us for the content of our character.

As one might imagine, Will has been subjected to a great deal of ridicule from his peers for bothering to make a principled stand for a cause he believes in. But in response to this, he is showing a maturity and intelligence that is far beyond what so many adults in this country are capable of on their best day. (As can be evidenced by checking the asinine comments over at the right-wing "NewsBusters" blog)

Here's a glimpse of his ability to articulate himself on the bullying:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Political correctness gone wild?

While I think he put much too sharp a point on his argument, conservative talk-radio host Michael Smerconish brought up an important subject and made some good points on his morning show (article version) about political correctness gone wild in our society.

In particular, Mr. Smerconish is suggesting that it is political correctness that kept the military from acting on the suspicious activity of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, years prior to his recent alleged mass-shooting at Fort Hood. I think it's too early to jump to this conclusion, we don't know just how much Hasan's superiors knew, but I agree that it certainly appears to be the case. If so, this is a very serious problem that must be addressed.

Questions about the military's lack of action in the case of Major Hasan and the possibility that political correctness played a role is very valid, but conservative demagogues are, of course, already concluding this to be a point of fact and are using it as proof that their anti-Muslim rhetoric all these years have been correct.

Watch as my head spins now. Half-term, ex-Governor Sarah Palin went so far as to advocate fascism, yes fascism on Sean Hannity's Fox News program the other day. I say this not simply because Ms. Palin advocates "profiling", but rather the way in which she opens up the possibility of a disregard of civil rights or civil liberties if it does (or could be twisted) into saving American lives.

Specifically I'm referring to this line, "profiling, in, in the context of doing whatever we can to save innocent American lives — I'm all for it, then." It is this comment which reeks of the sort of tactics utilized by the Nazi regime and the police-state, protect-the-homeland-at-all-costs mentality that the German people embraced out of a mindless fear spurred on by fear-mongering and jingoistic propaganda.

Here is my take on what the Sarah Palin phenomena and Nationalistic, right-wing populism could lead to...

I think real Americans adhere to the sort of principals espoused by Benjamin Franklin, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." But then, Sarah Palin, with all her rhetoric about "real America", and her Palin drones, have no clue about it. Read more about the culture of fear.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A voice of reason, in an era of extremism

Author and public speaker, among other things, Frank Schaeffer is a a former right-wing conservative Christian who has become disenchanted with the conservative movement and the Republican party.

He's written several novels and even some non-fiction books, including his autobiography Crazy For God. He's also done various interviews on TV and radio, plugging his books and discussing the dangerous trends emerging in the political and religious systems in this country. I first encountered him on the Rachel Maddow program, and was blown away by how outspoken a man with his background was against the extremism on the Christian right.

He has called-out those Christianist evangelizers who have made careers (political or otherwise) out of demonizing those who don't share their so-called "values" as well as sounding the alarm against the rising paranoia and bigotry in the Republican party.

Now in his latest book, Patience With God, he's taking on certain militant atheists for their own brand of evangelizing and the bellicosity among some secular militants towards people of faith. He made some excellent points in a very good interview on GRITtv with Laura Flanders.

While I can agree with many things that Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Bill Maher have to say about the irrationality and dangers of superstitious beliefs, insulting religious people en masse really isn't improving public discourse nor secular/sectarian relations.

As I've mentioned on other blogs, given his background, his honesty and his balance, I think Frank Schaeffer (click here for his blog) is an indispensable voice of moderation who can help bridge understanding between the sectarian and the secular, as well as help tamp down the extremist rhetoric that is paralyzing our society and political system.

I'd love to see him interviewed by Charlie Rose.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marriage for some becomes marriage for none?

Is it possible, technically speaking, that in an effort to ban domestic partnerships, same-sex unions and same-sex marriages, that a Texas constitutional amendment passed in 2005 has effectively banned all marriage, including opposite-sex marriage, in the state?

According to Barbara Ann Radnofsky, Democratic candidate for attorney general in Texas and also a lawyer, some of the language in the amendment has done just that. The story over at McClatchy.

Such effort for such triviality?

Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog has temporarily paused while he and his staff take the time to read, digest and dissect ex-governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin's new book 'Going Rogue'. This seemed, to me, a massive waste of his/their/our time.

While I think it's extremely important that journalists and analysts take great pains to actually study a subject or an event or a piece of work and then provide an objective assessment of it, and while I think it is becoming increasingly necessary that more professionals in the business take the time to do this, and while I commend Andrew Sullivan for doing so, I'm perplexed as to why he would go to so much effort for something as seemingly trivial, written by someone as lacking of substance as Sarah Palin.

I'd guess that he's wanting to read the book and pick it apart for errors, gaffes and inconsistencies, presenting a complete picture of it rather than releasing it in drips and drabs. He should have an easy enough time at this...

I left a comment over at Mediaite.com about Sarah Palin and the possible dangers that her brand of "populism" could quite possibily lead to — i.e. right-wing fascism.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Put kids first, not teachers

It is exceptionally rare that I agree with former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gringrich, but this Sunday was one of those occasions when he, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton were on Meet the Press.

They discussed improving education in the country by creating more accountability among school administrations, getting parents and communities more involved, ensuring that schools have the resources they need, and raising expectations both in the home and in the schools. It may not be a glamorous subject, but it is an imperative one.

Mr. Gingrinch stated that "education is the number one factor in our future prosperity" as well as the "number one factor in national security". He even went so far as to agree with Al Sharpton that education is "the number one civil right of the 21st century". He is absolutely right on these points. Unfortunately, for decades education has been largely ignored both financially and administratively. It's been a long time coming but it appears that the Obama administration is taking education much more seriously than other Administrations have in recent memory.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Best government money can buy

I got on my soapbox today over at the Daily Beast.

I was outraged over what has, sadly, become increasingly typical — our elected representatives being bought and paid for by lobbyists who represent special interest groups and corporations that most definitely do not have the nation's interests at heart.

In particular, according to the New York Times (you will need to get a free account to view the article),
"The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements [they drafted] printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.
"Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points — 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.
...
"In recent years, Genentech’s political action committee and lobbyists for Roche and Genentech have made campaign contributions to many House members, including some who filed statements in the Congressional Record. And company employees have been among the hosts at fund-raisers for some of those lawmakers. But Evan L. Morris, head of Genentech’s Washington office, said, “There was no connection between the contributions and the statements.”

This reminded me of two scenes from 'The Aviator'. In one, aviation pioneer and associate of Howard Hughes, Jack Frye asks, "So you want me to bribe senators?" to which Mr. Hughes responds, "I don't want them bribed, Jack. I want it done legally. I want them bought."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For Veterans Day

I wanted to thank our soldiers both at home and abroad, and both actively serving and retired for their service to our country. Many of us take for granted the sacrifices that you and your families make every day for our sake. It's something we should be far more mindful of, and not just a few days out of the year.

I also want to apologize to those who have served, those who are serving, and especially those who have been maimed or killed while fighting in Iraq, and to their families. I apologize for not trying to do more to get my elected representatives to prevent or stop the unjust and unnecessary war in Iraq.

It is your duty to protect the nation and its citizens. To fight the wars the Congress declares and to do so as the Commander-In-Chief orders you to do. And you have done that with great distinction. It is the duty of us, the civilian citizens, to ensure that our leaders in government, the ones we elect into office, are thoughtful and never careless about where they send you, why they send you, and to ensure that they give you the necessary resources to accomplish an achievable, legitimate mission. At large the American public failed you in this sacred duty. And I am one of them.

Even if waged entirely for the wrong reasons, even if the premise was based on deliberate lies by our own government, you have done your duty in carrying out Operation Iraqi Freedom. I, and I'm sure most of those even who oppose certain policies or even wars, do support you.

Here is a good site for veterans and those who are interested in what some of them have to say.

Here are releases from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Here is data on casualties regarding Operation Iraqi Freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom.   

Check here for an honor roll of our fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lastly, go to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America website for some great resources for soldiers, their families, learn or become active on issues, volunteer and contribute financially to the needs of soldiers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

'Liberals' should tone it down, or expect more backlash

Keith Olbermann revealed a lot of truth about the Carrie Prejean farce on his show tonight. But I must say, Mr. Olbermann closed with a gesture at the end of the show that was downright crude and I'm wondering how much attention it will get.

He signed off the show making a reference to honesty while holding up two-fingers, mimicking the Boy Scouts oath. He then looked off camera and paused, for comedic effect, and while invoking Ms. Prejean held up three fingers mimicking the Boy Scouts, three-finger salute, alluding to the Girl Scouts. (unfortunately the video on MSNBC's website does not include the very close of the show where the incident happened. I'll post it here if that part of the video becomes available online)

This would be seemingly innocent in itself, if it were not for the fact that the segment was largely in response to the scandal involving Ms. Prejean and the (solo) sex video of her that has been circulating lately. It doesn't take an all too vivid imagination to put together the intentional 2 (then 3) finger salute gesture, the context of the situation, and Mr. Olbermann's not-so-subtle, sophomoric style to discover just exactly what was meant — female masturbation and how many fingers it would require in Ms. Prejean's case.

Now I like shows like Jon Stewart's, Bill Maher's and Stephen Colbert's not just in spite of but because of their crude and irreverent styles, and I certainly don't mind a bit of that on shows like Keith Olbermann's and Rachel Maddow's, but it can be easily overdone and undermines any credibility they might otherwise be trying to convey.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Get real on healthcare reform

In spite of all the things going on I haven’t written much about the huge healthcare dilemma in this country. I suppose in light of news reports which claim we're getting close to voting on a final health care bill in congress, that I should give my take on it all.

Getting a final vote would be good news if serious reform were included in the package, but from what I've seen — and it is difficult to get accurate, digestible information on the proposals — the final bill appears to include little actual reform improvements.

Liberals are demanding a so-called ‘public’, or government ‘option’. That, to them, is already a huge compromise as what they really want is to completely scrap private insurance and create a single-payer healthcare system paid for by tax dollars and managed by the government. I’m glad that is off the table because such a thing would not possibly work in a country as populous, expansive and corrupt as ours.

The bill is reportedly likely to include a ‘public option’ though such a system may only come into being if certain conditions trigger it. It is also likely that there will be an opt-out for states that do not want to participate.

Many are saying that an opt-out for states will keep a ‘public option’ from achieving the cost savings, etc. that it is designed to create. That may be true, but I think it’s a fair compromise to give the states an opt-out and it also follows the constitution much closer by respecting state’s rights.

Personally, I oppose the ‘public option’, in part because it is going to come with individual mandates which will force people to buy healthcare whether they can afford it or not. A boon for insurance companies who would love to have a lot more customers, it will hit middle-income folks the hardest. These are the kind of people who typically don’t have a private insurance option through their employer and, living paycheck to paycheck, cannot begin to afford insurance premiums every month. They also cannot afford the penalties the government will impose for not buying insurance.

Of course, subsidies are supposed to address this issue, and for lower-income folks this may be adequate, but the subsidies proposed will not be adequate for those folks stuck in the middle who make too much for subsidies and too little for high insurance premiums. In the end this means less money for their families and still no health insurance. Incumbents should beware this group of individuals.

I also oppose the public option because it doesn’t actually address the exorbitant costs of health care. While increased competition for insurance companies sounds great — which is why, unlike Democrats who claim to support increased competition, I agree with Republican efforts to eliminate laws preventing insurance companies from offering services out of state — the fact is, much of the high costs in health care isn’t from insurance companies it is from the medical industry (doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies) itself. Insurers having to compete with a government program will not actually do anything about this.

So much for the Democrats pet project. Now for the Republicans. They keep harping on ‘Tort reform’. I’ve been cynical of the idea since I first heard it bandied about because I know that doctors and hospitals will more often than not weigh the costs of lawsuits and bad press vs. the costs of having adequate safety procedures in place and they will choose the least expensive option. That’s common sense that even a Tea Partier should be able to understand.

A little justice, afterall

I was glad to see that the Justice of the Peace, Keith Bardwell, from Louisiana who had refused to marry an interracial couple several weeks ago has now resigned his office.

While I felt that the appropriate action was for him to be removed from his official duties by the proper Louisiana authorities, in the end what mattered most was for Mr. Bardwell to no longer have a position of governmental power.

There is no place in an egalitarian society for those who allow bigoted views to interfere with their ability to carry out their official responsibilities to the public. A Justice of the Peace, for instance, doesn’t have to agree with interracial marriage but he must offer interracial couples the same equal protection of the laws that he would for non-interracial couples.

Whether it is at the national, the state or even local level, it is critical that government officials are held accountable and removed from positions of authority when they violate the constitutional rights of the citizenry. This is fundamental to maintaining both law & order as well as egalitarianism.

Though I accept this outcome as adequate, it does make me wonder if, had Mr. Bardwell not resigned, would state and local officials have done anything to remove him? It appears as though they would have let him continue on as before, though Gov. Bobby Jindal did call on him to resign. To me, for Mr. Bardwell to continue as Justice of the Peace after having violated the rights of admittedly 4 interracial couples, would have been completely unacceptable.

I'm glad that Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay were able to get married and I'm glad that this man will no longer be denying marriage to couples on the basis of their race, but it's sad that today same-sex couples all across this country cannot legally get married (except in 4 states). And after the election in Maine the other day, none will be had anytime soon in that state.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Justice For All loses again

What a truly depressing day for everyone in this country who (actually) supports egalitarian principles. Maine voted 53 to 47% in favor of repealing same-sex marriage, which had been legalized (though not yet legally binding) by the legislature last spring. 

What an embarrassing travesty of justice that a majority of American citizens actually voted to strip their fellow American citizens, their very neighbors, of rights that had finally been recognized in the state.

It was bad enough to me when, for instance, my state of Missouri voted 71% in 2004 in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (even though it wasn’t legal in the state anyway). It was jarring to me that even in the 21st century such a large majority of people would vote to completely marginalize and in fact actively penalize a segment of the population, all to satisfy their own personal and religious comfort levels.

The fact that clearly a great many Democrats must have voted for this to have passed by such a margin confirmed to me that for all the lip-service about being progressive and standing for equality, the Democratic party is actually completely full of shit. Like the GOP, it is made up mostly of selfish people who are only out to advance their own interests, they don’t give a damn about the suffering of others. Concepts such as social justice, equality, civil liberties, and civil rights are just catchy words meant to portray them as being caring and enlightened.

As bad as all that was — legislating discrimination into our state’s constitution — I could at least say that all they had really accomplished was to impose some overkill by denying us something that was already not recognized by law. In the case of California, and now Maine, however, intolerant mobs motivated by their personal prejudices and misguided fears managed to revoke civil rights that had been granted (or were soon to take effect) by judicial or legislative action. It doesn't get much more personally insulting and confrontational than this.

So where do we go from here?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Take that, conservatives!

As of now it appears that Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman is going to lose the special election in the 23rd congressional district of New York. Democrat Bill Owens has a 4-point lead, though there are still some precincts that have not reported and there are potentially some 10K absentee ballots which could make a difference.

If Mr. Hoffman does lose then this is a fantastic outcome! For one, it means a Democrat won a district that has been Republican since 1993. And it could be yet another indicator of a sort of national sea change that has taken place over the past several years in favor of progressivism over conservatism.

More importantly, perhaps, it also suggests that the theory among conservatives that it is the moderates of their party that is causing them to lose election after election is seriously flawed. Anyone with any common sense who has bothered to notice left-of-center Democrats have been winning more elections, including the presidency would see the obvious error in such thinking, but actual election results where this theory is tested is hard to argue against.

Nonetheless, look for them to try. Conservative pundits will be in full spin-mode tomorrow. Which is fine. They can keep telling themselves that they must purge the “RINO’s” {Republican In Name Only} from their party and get more ultra-conservatives to run, eventually the right-wingers will be effectively discredited as they lose more elections to this failed strategy. Then the Republican party can get back down to the necessary business of trying to balance out our two-party system.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The 23rd bellwether

The talking heads have been giving the special election in New York’s 23rd district a lot of attention over the past few weeks. But while some might want to write off all this as mere hype, I actually think a lot of them are right about the importance of this election. More so even than many of them acknowledge.

Ever since I first heard about this election between moderate Democrat Bill Owens, left-leaning Republican Dede Scozzafava, and right-wing Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman, I knew this race and its outcome had the potential to forecast the political future in this country over the next several years.

The district is solidly Republican, yet here we had a Republican that was getting criticized for being too liberal, and a Conservative party candidate being endorsed by the conservative-wing of the Republican party.

Specifically, ever true to her 3rd party-leaning, rogue conservative populist persona and ex-governor Sarah Palin supports the Conservative party candidate. Thrice-married, recently converted Catholic adulterous hypocrite Newt Gingrich supported Ms. Scozzafava until she dropped out of the race two days ago. Apparently it is now a real toss-up between the Democrat and the Conservative party candidate, though polls indicate the Conservative party candidate has a 5-point lead.

This is important because it is yet another example of the Republican party moving ever to the right. For several years now one after another after another moderate Republican has been essentially forced out of the party, replaced by hard-right conservatives eager to make everything about guns, god, gays and abortion.

Add to the new litmus test list not only social conservatism but fiscal conservatism. The neo-(as in new)conservative movement demands tax cuts for everyone (especially the ‘overburdened rich’), slashed government spending (except endless wars & missile defense shields), ending entitlement programs (except Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment benefits, etc.), no more bailouts for the rich & shameless (and no regulating them or capping their multi-million $$$ bonus checks either), free-markets solve all the world’s financial problems (except all that free-trade that stole most of our jobs).

All of this, to me, spells disaster for the country’s political system. By the Republicans boiling themselves down to such a hyper-partisan, hyper-ideological, ultra-right-wing, exceedingly militant minority they are pushing moderates toward the Democratic party and setting themselves up for a lot more election losses.

Now if I had my way, I’d take George Washington’s advice and we wouldn’t even have political parties in this country. Run the issues, to hell with party affiliations and toeing partisan lines. But the only thing worse than having two incompetent parties is having one efficient one. Let's not forget the axiom that when it comes to government, only dictatorships are truly efficient.

So why shouldn’t a guy that leans left welcome more Republican losses and more Democrats in office?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New propaganda for the Left's anti-war agenda

The Washington Post is reporting that senior White House official and former marine corps captain, Matthew Hoh, resigned in protest over the war in Afghanistan. The liberals seem to be just eating it up, too. It's headline news over at the Huffington Post. Look for it tonight all over MSNBC tonight. Speaking of which, this ties in nicely to what Arianna Huffington called for a few weeks back when she suggested Vice President Joe Biden resign in protest over the war in Afghanistan.

For months now, ever since drawing down in Iraq seemed a real and inevitable possibility via President Obama, the left (and some on the right) have been employing the same rhetoric and tactics to pressure the government into ending our involvement in the conflict there. They, in fact we, were correct in opposing the war in Iraq. But not so in Afghanistan.

I supported this war under the Bush administration, though I felt that the administration grossly mishandled it. Bush & Co. took our eyes off the ball in Afghanistan so as to push their Neocon geopolitical agenda in Iraq and the situation in Afghanistan slowly deteriorated from neglect. (see retired Gen. Paul Eaton's spot-on assessment)

 Nonetheless, now that we actually have a president who is giving Afghanistan (and Pakistan) the attention it desperately needs, many on the left are doing their level best to stop and reverse our involvement there. In the past few years I felt this time might very well come. In spite of their often repeated claims over the years that they weren't merely a bunch of ant-war defeatists as those on the right had characterized them, many who opposed the war in Iraq did not oppose it merely for the lack of justification for it, nor the imperialism that it smacked of, but rather simply because it was a war.

When it comes down to it, many on the left clearly do not want the United States to involve itself in any war, at any time, for any reason. And if they get their way, we are doomed.


In closing, I respect Mr. Hoh's decision, it was his to make. I wish more government officials like him would have had the courage to have resigned over the travesty that was the war in Iraq. However, I think Mr. Hoh is wrong about the war in Afghanistan. Grim though it is, it is also a war of necessity. We cannot afford to lose even more ground there. Pakistan can't afford that. The region can't afford it. 

My comment at the Daily Beast.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No right to privacy for nudie?

I saw this story last week but didn't get a chance to write anything about it.

A Springfield, Virginia man is being charged with indecent exposure for being naked in his own home. Apparently a woman was walking her young son to school and crossed the 'offender's' yard, and saw him naked through a window as he was making morning coffee in his own kitchen. She complained and the cops came and arrested the man.

My first thought was how ridiculous it was for the cops to actually arrest and then charge someone for nudity in his own home. What is this, Victorian England? My next thought was how incredibly selfish (and prudish) this woman must be to believe her rights to not be offended supersede the privacy rights of someone else minding their own business in their own home. I then wondered why this dame wasn't being charged with trespassing... More on that later. No doubt this story would be vastly different if the watcher was a man and the watchee had been a woman.

Of course, I realize that there could be extenuating circumstances. But from what has been available in the reporting I've seen it looks open and shut to me. The guy was in his own home and has a presumed right to privacy. He was not in a public place. The video footage from local news coverage showed the view from outside the home, in the dark of night. There would have been nothing unreasonable in someone being naked in that room with the window & doors uncovered as they were.

The woman and her son were technically trespassing on his property and, again, were not in a public place. Whether intentional or not, she looked through his window and would have seen only a glimpse of the man unless she stopped to gawk. As far as I'm concerned, by trespassing and looking toward the open window of a private residence she forfeit any legitimate claims she might have to seeing something offensive in a more public setting. It's not enough to say, 'I can see you from outside the house' as the responsibility then falls back on them, 'Well, why were you looking through my windows into my house?'.

To me the solutions is quite simple, don't trespass on someone's property and don't look in their windows. If you do, then don't complain about what you see. Problem solved.

Now I'm not sure what the law is there in Virginia, but I know what the law shouldn't be. There should not be a burden placed on individuals that at no time will their actions from within the reasonable privacy of their own home cause any offense to those outside their home. The emphasis on reasonable here is quite intentional. In other words, you can't legally masturbate to passers-by on the street through an open bay window in a well-lit room and claim 'I didn't know anyone could see me'. However, you can certainly make coffee in your kitchen in the nude with an open curtain and legitimately claim that no offense was intended when someone happened to look while passing by.

Ultimately the burden of proof should be placed on the 'offended' party to prove that the 'offender' was aware that his or her actions was offensive and/or publicly viewable. In summation, they are going to have to prove intent here, and from what I've seen that is doing to be very difficult to do.


In closing, there were a few things about this incident that I found quite interesting. First, the police are apparently claiming that the man wanted to be seen naked. My response: How the hell do they know? Is there a history of this? Has there been other complaints about the man or the property? Did the man in some way draw attention to himself so he would be seen? Sorry, but just being naked in itself doesn't qualify. Outside of one of these being the case I don't see how one can make such an accusation.

The cops claim there may have been another incident involving the accused and so they're asking people to come forward. I find it quite convenient to imply that there have been other incidents and then seeking evidence which might support this. Whatever happened to cops reaching conclusions based on actual evidence rather than reaching conclusions based on hypothetical evidence?

It appears to me that the cops really want a case here and so, as often happens, they threw out an accusatory statement for which there is probably no proof, only convenient assumption. Part of this may be that losing a case like this would be rather embarrassing for local law enforcement. Of course, winning such a case should be rather embarrassing as well. In any event, I finally figured out why the cops didn't charge the woman with trespassing (or at least drop the case given those circumstances) and why they are actually seeking prosecution: the 'victim' here is the wife of a cop.