Monday, August 31, 2009

Socialist cops and park rangers

From the News-Gazette opinion page on Sunday:

Name calling has no legitimate place in public debate. Dismissing people as socialists instead of analyzing the ideas they put forward is a cheap and easy way to avoid meaningful engagement in public discussion of the important issues that face Americans today. All too often, such labeling is the primary response entered in public forums by people who have little understanding of what they are talking about and less interest in learning.

Socialism is typically defined as a theory of social organization in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned and regulated by the community as a whole. This definition applies to many of the programs that Americans have long accepted as legitimate features of their lives, such as the public school system, the military, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare, a host of state and federal retirement systems and all of the state and national parks.

If we accept the definition of a socialist as a person who practices socialism, then anyone who has been a public school teacher, a member of the armed forces, a state or federal law enforcement officer, a postal worker or a recipient of benefits from the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare, or a state or federal retirement system, or who has visited a state or national park is a socialist.


Also, today's Krugman column is especially good, remembering how reasonable even Richard Nixon was compared to today's political climate:

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.


I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I *knew* it

Elvis looks a little young, but perhaps in his illuminated state, he doesn't age anymore:

[Note: I have no idea where this came from - I found it from a link with no explanation on it].

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More socialism in health care

Why are we afraid of the word "socialism?" It is being used not as an argument in current debates, but as an accusation. It is being used insidiously too, in that policies intended to accomplish the common good are labeled "socialist" and therefore evil. End of discussion.

Call it what you want, but health care is a common good. If you want to call it socialist, fine. Then I guess we need more socialism in health care:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The savage man has a savage God; the cruel man a cruel God; the effeminate man has an effeminate God; while the good man lifts up holy hands to a God who rewards goodness."
-American Journal of Theology (1907)

Friday, August 21, 2009

More whining about health care

More whining about health care reform is available in my Smile Politely column this week: Compromised reform.

I'm trying to figure out why I'm suddenly feeling political again. I've been dormant these last 9 months, and content to mostly ignore the Birthers and the Teabaggers. But now they are scuttling health care, and Obama and the Dems seem content to let them. This is something important and vital to a lot of real people, so my ire is up.

But instead of reading my column, you really should read Roger Ebert's two excellent posts about health care reform: Death Panels: A most excellent term, and I'm safe on board. Pull up the life rope. That guy can write.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weenie-ing Around

First, Obama says he is fully committed to a public health insurance option for health care reform. After the predictable, insane backlash from some Conservatives, who believe in things like Death Panels, he backpedals and says the public option isn’t an essential part of the plan. After the predictable back-backlash from liberals, who rightly say that any kind of reform without a public option can’t really be called health care reform, he has now re-backpedaled by saying he never said he didn’t support the public option.

What a frickin mess.

What is it with Democrats and backbones? There is a time to be bi-partisan, and there is a time to just say, look, we were elected by a huge majority, our platform included health care reform, we don’t care how big of a temper-tantrum the other side is throwing, we are going to go forward for the good of the country.

Nope. Democrats get mired in false compromises that are roundly rejected by everyone, especially those they are trying to appease. It’s a script I’m tired of, and one that I thought Obama was going to stray from.

I guess I’m relieved that he at least recognizes there is some value in having a base, and has re-retreated. Having a base is something Democrats during the Bush Administration never seemed to think was all that important.

So, yeah, it’s a mess, and who knows what happens from here. At least we have Rachel Maddow to sort it out:

Maddow: "A majority of personal bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical costs and a majority of those are people who actually have health insurance."

Health care reform without a public option is just more of the same.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Writing life update: Thanks to my friend Dave Wright (who hooked me up with the right person) I had a piece published this week in Wunderkammer Magazine, an on-line mag devoted society and culture.

The article is actually a toned down version of a blog post from June about picking up dancers in Kankakee. Now, it's mostly about being an extra in a movie. It's available here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I've Had Enough of the Crazy

I guess I'm a mood lately.

Yesterday I went after Cal Thomas.

Today I'm going after the Birthers, the Teabaggers and the Astroturfers in my Smile Politely column: Untethered.

Also, I think one of our political parties has become the People's Front of Judea.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bad Religion

A couple weeks ago, Cal Thomas wrote an angry column about the Episcopal Church. The Episcopals had just ended their ban on gay bishops and same-sex marriages and Cal was miffed that they were daring to be more inclusive that he thinks God should be.

So far, nothing surprising. However, he also took this as an opportunity to expound on the meaning of the church:

“Inclusivity has nothing to do with the foundational truths set forth in Scripture. The church, which belongs to no denomination, but its Founding Father and His Son, is about exclusivity for those who deny the faith.”

I think this is what separates religion as a positive vs. negative force in the world. It's the difference between religion as inclusion vs. religion as exclusion.

When you are encouraged to accept others because religion teaches you that there is that of God in everyone, then religion can be a constructive reflection of God’s will in the world.

When you come to believe that the main purpose of the church is to condemn and exclude others, you’ve lost your way. Calling people heretics may feel temporarily satisfying, but in the end, you can’t slaughter people via Crusade or Jihad without first condemning them as heretics, as outsiders to the one true faith, as other.

The irony is that exclusion isn’t very Christian. The foundational message of Jesus, according to Jesus, is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. And, for those unclear on the concept of “neighbor,” it includes everyone, even those heretical Samaritans and Episcopalians.

So I think Cal should read the Bible more. If he did, he might be surprised to find that Jesus saved his venom for the self-righteous, for those who claim to speak for God in the service of exclusion.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I'm Kenyan Too!

Every family has its secrets:

Quote of the Day

"I'm told that extremely wealthy people can immediately tell the difference between a $200 dress and a $2000 dress. I'm just hoping they can't tell the difference between a $200 dress and a $50 dress."

-Jill, in trying to dress for a seriously lavish wedding earlier in the summer, where her cousin married a Connecticut gal with a trust fund.