The Only Practical Rea$on to Vote for Bernie

Tags

, , ,

hvs money

Yesterday, Jeff Winbush at Domino Theory raised possibly the most prevalent objection among Democrats and independents for casting a primary vote for Bernie Sanders, namely that a President Sanders’ agenda would be too extreme to ever be realized.

I wholeheartedly agree that if elected as President, Sanders would have an incredibly difficult time moving any of his agenda forward. However, anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton would have an easier time enacting liberal policies is greatly underestimating the odium the GOP has for her (as a female, as a symbol of her husband’s legacy, and as a symbol of Obama’s legacy). Also, noting the direction the GOP is moving with leading candidates like Trump and Cruz, a Democratic president in 2016 is sure to meet even more resistance than Obama has. But even if Hillary were to meet half the resistance that Obama did, nothing will get accomplished in Washington for another term—save the occasional government shutdown and Dr. Seuss themed fake filibuster.

As far as the extremism of Bernie’s platform (vs. Hillary’s), it is important to realize that Bernie has already pulled Hillary so far left on the campaign trail that their policy proposals are becoming almost indistinguishable. Hillary just said this weekend that her top domestic priority would be healthcare?!? Her debt free college proposal only came after Sander’s push for tuition free college. Their rhetoric on ISIS is nearly identical (although Clinton does have more credibility in the foreign policy arena). Outside of foreign policy leadership experience and differing votes on the war in Iraq, there are few major differences between the Democratic candidates, and only one that matters: money.

If you can accept the fact the neither candidate has a chance of magically changing the hearts of the GOP congress and moving them towards enacting even watered down progressive policy measures, then a Sanders’ presidency at least proves that political candidates do not have to prostitute themselves to big money donors that fund their campaigns. This substantive outcome is something that the obstructionist GOP cannot stop, and the lasting impact it would have on politics would be–to quote both Donald Trump and Bernie–“Uuuge.” This is the reason to vote for Sanders.

(For the record, Trump’s popularity on the right is, at least to some degree, based on the fact that, like Sanders, Trump doesn’t need big money donors to fund his campaign.)

This has to be the message from Sanders’ campaign: a vote for Sanders is a vote for a political system that restores at least some balance of power to people over money–as evidenced by a candidate who turns down donations from billionaires. A vote for Hillary is just a vote for Bernie’s lightly moderated policies–policies with no better chance of getting through a GOP congress and zero chance of pleasing her Wall Street benefactors who already have their sales receipts for less regulation. 

The End of a Scandalous Affair: Why a Liberal Loved and Left Ben Carson

Tags

, , , , , , ,

carson

Prior to last night, I saw some great reasons to support Ben Carson as a candidate for the most significant public office in the world. As a political outsider, I thought there was a chance he could challenge establishment politics. His grassroots support, evidenced by the sheer number of his campaign donors, also gave me some hope that he would not just be another political puppet of corporate America. Even his calm demeanor did much to combat the stereotype I have of the angry, fear-mongering conservative. I thought, at the very least, the doctor will make it appear as if he acts based on reason rather than emotion. This was all enough to move me, an independent liberal voter, to consider Carson as a suitable second choice (behind Bernie Sanders) for President. And in the event of a Carson versus Clinton matchup in 2016, I was ready to vote for a Republican.

Five minutes into last night’s debate, that all changed.

In case you missed it, Neil Cavuto (debate moderator) led with a question regarding the minimum wage. Donald Trump said he would not raise it; the audience applauded. Carson was then asked about his proposal to have a starter wage for younger workers and a higher minimum wage for adult workers:

CAVUTO: You suggested one minimum wage does not fit all, and that perhaps we should offer a lower or starter wage for young people. Those protesters outside are looking for $15 and nothing less. Where are you?

CARSON: As far as the minimum wage is concerned, people need to be educated on the minimum wage. Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.

It’s particularly a problem in the black community. Only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job, who are looking for one. You know, that — and that’s because of those high wages. If you lower those wages, that comes down.

You know, I can remember, as a youngster — you know, my first job working in a laboratory as a lab assistant, and multiple other jobs. But I would not have gotten those jobs if someone had to pay me a large amount of money.

But what I did gain from those jobs is a tremendous amount of experience, and how to operate in the world and how to relate to different people, and how to become a responsible individual. And that’s what gave me what I needed to ascend the ladder of opportunity in this country.

That’s what we need to be thinking about. How do we allow people to ascend the ladder of opportunity, rather than how do we give them everything and keep them dependent?

At this point I was a bit frustrated that Dr. Carson failed to address the question, but Cavuto, feeling similar frustration, I assume, sought clarification:

CAVUTO: So, sir, just to be clear, you would not raise it?

CARSON: I would not raise it. I would not raise it, specifically because I’m interested in making sure that people are able to enter the job market and take advantage of opportunities.

More applause from the partisan audience.

And it was at that exact moment we witnessed a transformation. Dr. Carson the rational political outsider became Ben Carson the Washington politician before our very eyes. A supporter of the people became a supporter of the status quo. An independent thinker joined the herd.

One only has to go back a few weeks to see how drastically Carson’s ideology changed on what is perhaps becoming the key economic issue of this election. At the debate in California on September 16th, Carson was asked about the minimum wage:

TAPPER: Dr. Carson, Governor Walker didn’t really answer the question, but I’ll let you respond. He called raising the Federal Minimum Wage lame, what do you think of that?

CARSON: Well, first of all, let me say what I actually said about raising the minimum wage. I was asked should it be raised. I said, probably, or possibly. But, what I added, which I think is the most important thing, so, I said we need to get both sides of this issue to sit down, and talk about it. Negotiate a reasonable minimum wage, and index that so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America.

For a few reasons, Carson’s response in September was refreshingly brilliant. For one, his tone indicated a willingness to negotiate. In a two party system, negotiation was, is, and always will be America’s only hope at moving from gridlock to solutions. His answer was also unique. No other Republican candidate has offered anything other than a firm “no” when it comes to raising the minimum wage. Carson may have not have completely calculated the risk he was taking by veering away from conventional Republican thinking, but with a field of twelve (6 legitimate) candidates, it was nice to see one willing to offer at least some level of contrast on the issue. Most importantly, Carson’s response in September offered a logical solution to a relatively simple problem. His suggestion to “index” the minimum wage to inflation would indeed solve the issue at hand: that is the purchasing power of the wage, not the specific dollar figure. Note that while they don’t support an increase, even most of the Republican candidates tacitly support the concept of the minimum wage (save Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina, who would like to see it abolished), so if they support the concept, Carson was correct to propose a compromised and indexed wage that would keep taxpayers from continuing to subsidize the working poor.

What a difference seven weeks makes.

Carson’s answer last night regarding raising the minimum wage came with no acknowledgement of his previous position, which is in itself disturbing. Did he think no one would notice his change? Either way, this flip-flop is especially troubling because it tells us one of two things: either Carson pulled a “Hillary” by shifting dramatically on a critical policy stance because he realized (or was told—à la the Rubio to Bush burn) it was not politically expedient, or Carson himself became “educated” on the minimum wage sometime over the last seven weeks and decided that his original solution would cause joblessness.

If Carson changed his answer to stay in line with the party, he is no longer the political outsider that he and his current supporters might like to think he is. If he changed his answer because he only recently adopted a new position due to new information, then concerns regarding his lack of knowledge regarding policy matters have been clearly validated. Either way, the fling is over for me.

Southern Apologists Take Note: Your Confederate Flag Was Always Racist

Tags

, , , , ,

In relatively small numbers, people like Ben Jones are speaking out publicly to defend the confederate flag. Such defenses typically rest on the grounds that the flag represents southern heritage as opposed to racism, and if you talk to a defender of the flag long enough, you are likely to hear an explanation that the original purpose of the flag and the confederacy it represented was not racist—or at least, not primarily racist. This premise is  necessary for establishing some kind of positive virtue behind the controversial symbol.

But even the fathers of the confederacy publicly admitted their racist intentions in starting their new country and ultimately fighting their old one. This was no secret then, and it shouldn’t be discounted today.

Those who attempt to deny slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War (and typically by extension, the racist symbolism of the Confederate flag) , need to digest the words of the Vice President of the Confederate States of America as given in a speech just three weeks before the start of the war:

“The new [Confederate] constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact….[Our new government’s] foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Some white southerners’ misinterpretations of American history directly contradict those damning statements—especially when their misinterpretations produce nonsensical statements like “The Civil War wasn’t caused by slavery.” (I have heard these statements first-hand from otherwise fairly reasonable people.) While it’s understandable for southerners to desire a more palatable history of their beloved homeland and/or ancestors, the fabrication and acceptance of a fictional history only serves to ensure they won’t learn from others’ past mistakes.

Certainly, not every southerner who fought in the war did so because they shared Alexander Stephens’ racist beliefs, and there were plenty of factors both directly and indirectly related to slavery that led to the first shots fired at Fort Sumter, but a denial of slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War and the subsequent denial of the confederate flag as a racist symbol makes the modern-day southern apologist even more ignorant than the leaders of the confederacy 150 years ago.

But, at least the rebels are losing…again.

How a bleeding-heart liberal (finally) came to accept modern conservatism

Tags

, , ,

idea-light-bulb

For liberals who find it difficult to comprehend the differing beliefs of their conservative counterparts, I have unlocked a great mystery. In an attempt to better understand the inner workings of the American conservative mind, I discovered that viewing my household as a microcosm of the United States leads to a firm grasp on the tenets of an alternate political reality.

First, I had to acknowledge the connection between household politics and national politics.

The most significant similarity between my household and the nation is the measurable division between the haves and the have nots. For some time, America has seen the erosion of the middle class and a growing gap between the rich and the un-rich. The economic makeup of my home mirrors this separation, as my wife and I account for over 99% of the household income, while our two toddler sons don’t even bring in 1% via their cash welfare handouts provided in their birthday and Christmas cards.

Understanding that my household consists of two distinct economic classes has been a major step toward understanding and appreciating conservatism. I have further learned how an idol of the right, author Ayn Rand, bifurcated her fictional societies into what she saw as the makers and the takers, the former monopolizing virtue and the latter existing as a scourge. Based on the economics and consumption habits within the small society of my household, Rand’s portrayal could not be more accurate, and she is not the only high-profile figure to lucidly explain how only half of society is worthy of even the most basic human needs.

Speaking on behalf of modern conservatives, Mitt Romney famously elaborated on the “47 percent of the people…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.…These are people who pay no income tax…My job is not to worry about those people.”

I see it now. Rand and Romney get it. The takers in my household are constantly expecting things like food and shelter, even though they don’t contribute any portion of their measly incomes to the generous food and housing programs that my wife and I fully fund. There are, of course, far higher priorities than Cheerios and fruit snacks when it comes to the allocation of our vast riches. For instance, according to the relative scope of federal defense spending, by conservative logic my household should be spending at least $28,000 annually on guns, ammunition, and security to ensure that our defense capabilities exceed the combined capabilities of everyone else in our neighborhood.

Now, I have already anticipated the liberal counter to my airtight analogy: “But, Jason, your children do not have the opportunity to earn money and become part of the maker class.” Baloney. Once you start to understand things from the conservative perspective, you realize that liberals are full of excuses. My little boys have ample opportunity to earn their fair share. For instance, there is baby modeling, a lucrative and glamorous livelihood. The fact that there are 100 applicants for every one baby modeling job could have some parallel in regards to America’s unemployment situation, but to my newfound conservative sensibilities, that sounds more like another excuse.

The demands of the moocher class in my household are indeed tiring and financially draining. Sure, there are starry-eyed idealists who say that the only way to ensure that the moochers will have a chance to become self-sufficient is to temporarily meet all of their basic needs while they attempt to work their way out of poverty, but why should I gamble on them when my money could achieve almost guaranteed returns on the booming stock market? After all, progress for a household or a nation can only be measured in terms of economic growth, not some heartfelt stories about how there are fewer hungry children. Based on this conservative definition of success, I am now able to completely identify with the principle of investing in thriving American businesses rather than struggling American people. And now that corporations are people thanks to five justices on the Supreme Court, conservatives are just picking the most deserving “people” to support and subsidize.

There are still some secrets of conservatism that I have yet to decipher, like why so many conservatives would gravitate toward a religious figure who was so obsessed with helping poor people.  However, now that I am able to recognize the worthlessness of half the people in both my home and in my country, conservatism makes perfect sense.

###

A Conservative’s Argument for Socialism?

Tags

, , , ,

For some sick reason–most likely related to the inherent sinfulness of human nature–fiscal conservatives tend to oppose raising minimum wages in America. Many flat out oppose minimum wages altogether. The fact that employed people at Wal-Mart are forced to beg for food donations so they can have a respectable Thanksgiving meal is an emotional appeal that does nothing to sway modern-day Scrooges. And the fact that McDonalds has decided to assist its paid employees in navigating government bureaucracies in order to receive food stamps and other welfare services also does nothing to soften the hearts or straighten the minds of the economically perverted.

But show one of these champions of the free market some shred of evidence that supports their disdain for minimum wages and they will delight in the statistical confirmation of their inhumane position.  It often appears that being right for these people is far more important than being righteous.

Such is the case this week as Dr. Mark J. Perry from the American Enterprise Institute published a short post which appears to reveal the damaging effects of the “job killing” minimum wage.

Here is the chart Perry presents:

minwage

The reader’s conclusion is pre-fabricated based on the selected information presented: Minimum wages create higher unemployment; therefore, minimum wage is bad. Simple, straightforward, and backed by numbers.

Now, I like simplicity as much as anyone. I truly believe that the mark of genius is the ability to explain the complex in a simple way. However, ignoring blatant complexities in the attempt to simplify is not genius at all. In fact, it is either deceitful or foolishly ignorant. I have yet to determine which category Dr. Perry falls into, but given the prestige of his professorship at The University of Michigan and the relative intellectual capacity such a position entails, I would lean toward the former. Let me explain.

The European countries on the list that Perry presents (in particular, eight out of the nine countries with the lower unemployment figures) do not have minimum wages for a very important reason—a reason that has little to do with the power of the free market to determine what an hour of a human being’s time is worth. Rather than relying on enforced minimum wages, most European countries rely on something far more effective at ensuring a humane standard of living: a guaranteed minimum income, an entitlement that prioritizes Maslow’s hierarchy over corporate oligarchy. For various reasons, these European countries decided that giving employers the responsibility of ensuring the wellbeing of their respective populations was not wise. Perhaps they decided this because of the history of labor abuses since the industrial revolution, or perhaps it was because of empirical evidence that rejects popular conservative economic theories. Either way, these European countries decided on guaranteeing their citizens an income and standard of living via the state, rather than trying to force businesses to do so.

So what does that have to do with the price of tea in China, or in this case, the unemployment rates of European countries? Easy. Perry is trying to project the effects of one mechanism (i.e. minimum wage) in truly socialist economies onto the U.S., which despite the exaggerated claims of your crazy uncle, is still very much capitalistic, and, despite employing some measures to combat poverty, does not provide the economic security for the poor that European countries do.

Perry’s faulty comparison is like comparing the concussion rates of football players to tennis players, and then determining that the mechanism of helmets is the cause of more concussions among football players. (For those who need help with that one, consider economic systems as the different sports, helmets as minimum wage requirements, and concussion rates as unemployment rates. It works; I promise.)

Dr. Perry’s half-truth is surely successful at achieving its desired outcome. He and his proponents now have another statistic to verify their uncompassionate theory about how paying people less will improve economies. In an economy full of living, breathing, caloric-dependent people, however, Perry would be much better off supporting (or even mentioning) the guaranteed minimum income mechanism which ultimately  keeps those European citizens  from having to both work and beg for dinner at the same time.

###

Gun Rights Advocates Turn to Intimidation

Tags

, , , , , ,

Everything is indeed bigger in Texas, and now that slogan can also apply to moronic public displays of intimidation. The New York Times reported today on an armed protest outside a suburban restaurant this past weekend.

From NYT:

A small meeting of a group seeking tougher gun laws was interrupted Saturday at a suburban Dallas restaurant when the woman who helped organize it saw something outside that startled her: at least two dozen men and women in the parking lot with shotguns, hunting rifles, AR-15s and AK-47s.

The scene unfolded near AT&T Stadium in the suburb of Arlington about 30 minutes after three women associated with the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America met inside the Blue Mesa Grill.

“I was terrified,” said the woman who helped coordinate the meeting and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she said she feared for her safety. “They didn’t want to talk. They wanted to display force.”

The armed group of men, women and children was made up of members of a gun rights organization called Open Carry Texas, and they stayed in the parking lot about 10 or 15 minutes to protest the Moms Demand Action meeting and then left.

Many enthusiastic defenders of the second amendment, certainly not all, may be able to rationalize the idea of a peaceful armed protest, but those are exactly the kind of people whose militia credentials need to be far more “well-regulated.” For proof, just look at the picture from the protest below.

gun idiots

I will avoid extensive commentary regarding the low-hanging fruit (i.e. the ape-like display of physical posturing by the gentleman(?) in the red t-shirt) because there is something far more concerning about this band of misfits. Note the downward direction in which at least three of the rifle muzzles are pointing in the photo. One gun even seems to be pointing directly at another member’s leg. Now, I am no gun expert, so I did some quick research regarding the proper way to carry a rifle or shotgun with a shoulder strap. Every source I could find, including this one from the state of Texas, clearly states that the muzzle of the gun should be pointed in a “safe direction.” All the pictures and diagrams available also depict the muzzle pointing up when the carrier is utilizing a shoulder strap. Continue reading

Obamacare: A Model of Compromise Opposed by the Uncompromising

Tags

, , , , , ,

As the government shutdown drags on and America creeps ever closer to yet another economic catastrophe, it is important to clarify a few things about the sole focus of House Republicans’ full-scale obstruction. Most realize that the government shutdown is a direct result of a desperate effort to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but it is worth explaining exactly what it is that extremist Republicans are trying to stop.

When the ACA was developed, Democrats knew that the liberal ideal of a single-payer (i.e. government controlled) health care system similar to those in Europe or Canada would not receive the political support from Republicans that was necessary for passage. Despite the fact that the single-payer systems in developed countries have been measurably cheaper and deliver better outcomes than America’s pre-ACA system, then-candidate Obama and his team decided to move ahead with a pragmatic plan instead of a politically hopeless idyllic proposal to win votes.

In order for health care reform to work, Obama’s strategists knew that it would need to draw on conservative philosophy, namely the unquestionable righteousness of the capitalist free market. Instead of restricting Americans’ choice when it came to their health care insurers, the Affordable Care Act would have to allow consumers to enter into a free market where competition would theoretically drive down costs. This was not a problem; Massachusetts’ plan had already done something similar under a Republican Governor, and it was proving to be successful.

An even more critical component to the success of the Affordable Care Act was the reality that it wouldn’t work at all unless everyone in the country participated by purchasing health insurance. (This is the same reason group plans offered by employers have always been cheaper than private individual plans; there is strength in numbers when it comes to purchasing power—especially with insurance.) Fortunately for Obama, conservative ideology had long valued individual responsibility. Since not carrying health insurance is irresponsible—because the high costs of emergency care are ultimately passed on to responsible people with insurance—conservative Republicans would have to agree with what would be known as the individual mandate. And in fact, they had been in agreement for years.

The most prominent conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, issued a report supporting the individual mandate in 1989. After that, a number of Republican politicians supported the individual mandate as an alternative to Clinton’s health care reform efforts in 1993. So the individual mandate should not have been a problem politically. And let’s not forget, Massachusetts’ plan had already done the exact same thing under a Republican Governor, and it was proving to be successful.

When the Affordable Care Act made it to Congress following Obama’s inaugural election, it was not exactly rammed down the country’s throat as many Republicans like to say. In fact, after many debates and committee hearings, “more than 160 Republican amendments were accepted” to the bill. The entirety of the Affordable Care Act was then passed by majority votes in both the Senate and the House. It is true that the bill had been created in the Senate via a controversial tactic which Republicans still denounce as illegitimate, but that aspect of legitimacy was never formally challenged, as it is without merit. The individual mandate was formally challenged and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Now Republican members of an extremist faction have shutdown the entirety of the federal government (a government in which they don’t believe anyway) all in the name of defunding, delaying, and repealing the President’s signature achievement. An achievement they claim is unaffordable despite its self-funding nature. An achievement they claim is “as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850” despite the fact it is disproportionately supported by black Americans. An achievement they claim is uncompromising tyranny despite the law’s lynchpins of Republican ideology.

It is painfully clear that certain members of today’s Republican Party wouldn’t be able to compromise even if someone did it for them, which happens to be exactly what President Obama did when he created the Affordable Care Act.

Shoot the hostage, then negotiate?

Tags

, , , , , ,

Poor John Boehner. Now I know why he cries all the time. I would cry too if I were responsible for leading a group of governing officials who don’t believe in government.

The Republican-led House of Representatives has given new credibility to an old definition for the word insanity, you know, the one about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you thought the 42 times that House Republicans voted unsuccessfully to repeal Obamacare may have taught the GOP a lesson regarding their party’s efficacy, you would be mistaken. Yesterday, the House submitted a budget proposal three times with the same stop-Obamacare clause. For the 43rd, 44th, and 45th time, their tiresome efforts were rejected.

But this time the insanity is not symbolic and the consequences are not just fodder for John Stewart.

So what’s next? Try number 46? Sort of, according to Boehner.

Jamie Dupree gives an insightful run down of what’s next:

On Tuesday morning, the Senate is expected to reject the latest offer from the House, including that request for a joint House-Senate conference committee to work out differences on a stop gap budget.

“The best path forward right now is for both chambers to convene a formal conference committee where we can resolve our differences,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

The request for that committee amplifies the GOP talking point in recent days that Democrats and President Obama are refusing to negotiate on the Obama health law and other issues.

But it also served to remind reporters of something else, as Senate Democrats have repeatedly asked for House-Senate negotiations on the budget resolution, the non-binding document that sets out the parameters of the budget debate.

18 times since April, GOP Senators have objected to Democratic efforts to start negotiations on the budget resolution, while Speaker Boehner has refused to appoint conferees for those talks.

So the Democrats offered to negotiate a budget resolution 18 times as a measure to prevent a government shutdown, and they were denied each time. Perhaps this was the Democrats’ own version of insanity, hoping the GOP would negotiate without holding the entire federal government hostage.

Today, the hostage has been shot, and now Republicans want to negotiate. A new example of insanity, I suppose.

Ted Cruz: Try it, try it. You will see…

Tags

, , ,

Ted Cruz performs a fake filibuster and defiles a classic piece of children’s literature in the process. What if Ted were the protagonist in a similar story…

“That President, that President, I do not like that President.”

“Do you like Obamacare?”

“I do not like Obamacare.”

“Would you like it for the poor?”

“I would not like it for the poor.”

“Would you repeal it on the Senate floor?”

“I would repeal it on the Senate floor.”

“Would you replace it with something good?”

“ I would. I would. For sure, I would. Something good like vouchers or pools. We must privatize health care and schools!”

“And leave the poor to do what then?”

“They aren’t poor no more with vouchers, friend.”

“But costs keep rising, will vouchers keep pace?”

“That is a discussion for another time, another place.”

“And these pools, you say, what is their price?”

“Less than Obamacare. Isn’t that nice?”

“I suppose it is if they cover the same, but your pools cover few, which the sick will find lame.The ACA seems like the way, to cover all and save the day. Try it, try it, and you may find, it heals all folks, leaves none behind.”

“I will not, will not fight for all. My dreams are big, poor people are small. I must show my party that I am a star. The election in three years isn’t too far. So on with my mission of making a stand, against something I think gives me upper-hand—over the weaklings my people despise: the ones inclined to compromise.”

Same Story, Different Day: Semi-Automatic Weapon, Mentally Ill American, Dozens of Victims

Tags

, , , , , ,

When I read daily headlines of suicide bombers in the Middle East, my heart breaks a little each time for the innocent victims. I used to believe that I was privileged to live in a country where those kinds of things didn’t happen; today I realized how wrong I have been.

America’s mass shooters are Iraq’s suicide bombers. Columbine is Mosul. Aurora is Hillah. Sandy Creek is Karbala.

Domestic terrorism is an international epidemic. Whether the root cause is identified as perverted religion or mental illness, the results are tragically the same. People die, and people bleed. Each survivor leads a darker existence, permanently stained and scarred as victims of fate—or chance. Most of those removed farther from the crime scenes eventually carry on, until the next incident.

Then there are those indirectly responsible for the tears and the grief. The ones who say that pointing fingers in the wake of a mass murder is inappropriate and counterproductive. The ones who claim, “Now is not the time.”  Their self-preservation shtick is getting old.

So let the finger pointing commence.

There is a key demographic that continues to ensure that Americans will lead lives no less risky than our fellow humans in war-torn countries of the Middle East. He is the conservative NRA member who wants congress to repeal Obamacare. He is the one who claims that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” despite the fact that Fort Hood and the D.C. Navy building were ripe with armed good guys. He is the one who claims that mental illness is to blame, not guns. And he opines, “someone” needs to help the mentally ill. He says this, yet at the same time, he bemoans the fact that his health insurance premiums might increase a few dollars so that other people can receive (mental) health services.

You know him. It is time to call him out.

A Brief Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

Tags

, , , , ,

Dear Mr. Putin:

I read your op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, and your decision to push your message through America’s most widely read news source still baffles me. I can only assume you were attempting to reach the American people. But why? Americans do not support military action in Syria in the first place. Do you even read The New York Times?

I know you are not familiar with the whole freedom of the press thing or freedom of speech thing, but plenty of Americans have already taken the liberty to express their disagreements with the president. Now, I know what you’re thinking: How is Obama going to silence all those dissenters? Is Alaska big enough and cold enough for that kind of prison population? Fortunately, these are not issues President Obama has to deal with. Instead, he was able to defer to congress to save face and appease the dissenters, thanks to what we call a constitutional separation of powers.

So if the American people already agreed with your general premise that America should not blow up some stuff in Syria (and thereby make the seat of your partner in crime warcrime a little hotter), what was the op-ed all about?

It must have been some kind of PR stunt to improve your image in the states.  I know you don’t have to do much pandering in Russia—as the threat of Siberian work camps has worked so well for you in maintaining public “support”—but your attempts to win over Americans could use a little work. For instance, you fell a bit flat when you started talking about how the use of force proves to be “ineffective and pointless.” You see, the Times and other media outlets in America keep us informed of how effective the use of force has been for you, so while Americans do seem to have a penchant for the likes of pervert politicians and corrupt officials, we don’t take quite as kindly to outright hypocrites and liars.

If it is American approval you are seeking, you should also refrain from telling Americans they aren’t exceptional. We just aren’t used to that. Frankly, it made some of us cry. We give trophies just for participation in youth sports and no child gets left behind when it comes to academics. We are special; everybody else tells us so.

If you want some Western admiration, you need to start being more Western.  You have certainly seen some Holywood movies, right? Here is a tip: the big strong serious guys in the movies who beat up on nicer, weaker people are not the crowd favorites. Try a more Forrest Gump-like or Supermanish approach. And if humility and protecting the innocent don’t work well for you, perhaps you could just try smiling more—or once.

Good luck, Vlad!

The “Obvious” Solution for Syria

Tags

, , , , , ,

Monday morning, Barack Obama, the man who won the White House on a strong anti-war platform, was reeling to gain support for his proposed attack on Syria. What a difference a day makes. By the time the president addresses the nation tonight, a military strike could be completely off the table.

It was a pointed, albeit simple, question from CBS reporter Margaret Brennan that may have saved the President of the United States from a political disaster. More importantly, Ms. Brennan’s inquiry may have saved the cities and lives of innocent Syrians caught in the middle of an already brutal civil war.

In London yesterday, Brennan asked Secretary of State John Kerry, “is there anything at this point that his government could do or offer that would stop an attack?”

Kerry responded, “Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”

Obviously.

…or not.

Seizing an opportunity, Russia immediately responded to Kerry’s, shall we say, suggestion. The Prime Minister of Russia proposed that Russia, Syria’s strongest ally, would indeed support the confiscation and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

This potential change in course leads to many new questions, but there are a few things that appear to be near certainties now regarding the international drama. Continue reading

No College Left Behind?

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ezra Klein from the Washington Post wrote a thoughtful piece last week on the connection between the runaway costs of medical care and college tuition. He argues that since these are two goods that people need so badly, there is very little leverage for the consumer and, therefore, no pressing reason for colleges and health care providers to curtail the rapid increase of costs.

Klein also sees a similarity in how the Obama administration plans on making the two industries more accessible to all Americans, namely by moving both from pay-for-service models to pay-for-performance models. Instead of health care providers receiving government subsidies based on the volume of services they provide, the ACA plans to issue subsidies based on the quality of those services. Likewise, Obama wants to change federal funding for colleges from a long-standing model where colleges receive government money based on enrollment to a formula where schools receive money based on quality measurements like graduation rates instead.

The pay-for-performance model for medical care seems like a logical way to discourage unnecessary (and pricey) tests and unproven treatments that have been a driving force behind ballooning medical bills. However, for higher education, the pay-for-performance model isn’t just potentially disastrous; it is guaranteed to wreak havoc on the two-year colleges that Obama champions.

Perhaps President Obama and his Secretary of Education have already forgotten about the ugly consequences of George Bush’s signature education reform. No Child Left Behind is a reform, by the way, that the Obama administration has effectively dismantled based on the damage the law did to schools and students that couldn’t meet its impossible requirements.

For those not intimately familiar with NCLB, the law required schools to improve standardized test scores and graduation rates each year in order to maintain levels of funding tied to student enrollment. In theory, it wasn’t a bad set of ideas, but in practice the law did far more harm than good. Schools focused excessive energy on test preparation for struggling students at the expense average and above average students who could already meet the minimum required scores. The focus on testing also meant far less time for teaching critical thinking and communication skills. Additionally, since graduation/promotion rates factored so heavily into the AYP formula by which schools were measured, teachers were “encouraged” to ensure that their students passed. This inevitably led to a lowering and complete abandonment of educational and ethical standards, allowing even the most unprepared students to matriculate.

It is worth mentioning that NCLB also negatively impacted post-secondary education, albeit indirectly, as colleges and universities became tasked with remediating the children who were indeed left behind. Currently, many states are experiencing a remediation crisis, with up to 40% of incoming college freshman needing remedial math and English classes because they were not adequately prepared by their NCLB-era public schools.

It is inexplicable that Obama is now touting a program for higher education that incorporates the same tragic strategy that compromised NCLB, especially after his administration did away with that strategy in K12 education.  Nevertheless, an emphasis on completion rates at colleges is set to be a key component of Obama’s college improvement plan, and it will trigger an unfortunate series of causes and effects. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: Better Never than Late

Tags

,

Although it is years late to the party, the Wall Street Journal is finally acknowledging the negative impact that low wages have on the American economy, albeit in a twisted, delusional manner. A front page graph from today’s WSJ shows the decline in employee wages since 2010. The caption underneath the graph reads:

“Economists fret that stagnant wages are hampering growth in the U.S. as consumers, the biggest driver of the economy, are reluctant to spend more unless their pay grows. Workers think they can’t push for raises because they feel they have limited bargaining power.”

I would congratulate the WSJ for its willingness to accept a long standing reality, but the folks at America’s only reputable conservative news outlet still seem so intent on infecting the country with toxic ideology that they are far more deserving of rebuke.

Take the idea that “consumers are reluctant to spend more unless their pay grows.” There is quite a difference between “reluctant” and completely incapable. Consumers are only “reluctant” to spend when they have money to spend in the first place. Continue reading

I am not an economist, but…

Tags

, , , , ,

normative economics

I am not an economist, nor am I a wannabe economist. Maybe it is something about the apt descriptor “dismal science” that keeps me from delving too deep into a field of study where the experts are as ideologically divided as America’s 113th congress. Maybe it’s the fact that basic algebra is my feeble mind’s mathematical zenith. Either way, I don’t claim to fully understand the intricacies of liquidity premiums or non-equilibrium economics, nor do I really want to.

But I am not a biologist either, and I understand the implications of evolutionary theory. I am not a physicist, but I know why I shouldn’t jump off a bridge. In the same respect, I have come to understand some very basic truths about America’s economic situation and the policies that have shriveled the middle class and hampered economic growth.

My “ah ha” moment came last week when I was reading an article (forgive me for not remembering which; I read quite a few), and the author wrote something along the lines of this: For the economy to get better, people will have to start buying more stuff.

There it was, about as simple an argument as could be. But it was this concise statement that finally allowed me to understand so many other unconnected dots, so many other assertions made by economists and politicians and pundits.  And it was the synthesis of all of these ideas that has now turned my previously tentative support for certain public policies into something more self-assured.

I should disclose that I have always been skeptical of the basic conservative principle of economics, whereby lowering taxes (particularly for corporations and top income earners) is supposed to result in economic growth. Some economists dispute the evidence which correlates America’s greatest period of middle class growth and prosperity with higher tax rates (again, for top income earners and corporations), but here are some general facts to consider:

  1. The income tax rate for the top 1% of earners in the 1950’s was 90%; the rate for these same top earners was 35% when the recession started in 2008, and it is 39% today.
  2. The capital gains tax rate (which primarily affects top income earners) was also 10% higher in the 1950’s than it was in 2008.
  3. The corporate tax rate in the 1950’s hovered between 40% and 50%; in 2008 it was 20%.

I am well aware that correlation does not always equal causation, but I doubt there is no significant relationship between the sustained success of the middle class in the 1950’s and government investments that were concurrently funded in large part by higher taxes on the rich and corporations. I also doubt that the current decline of the middle class and ballooning wealth of the upper class have nothing to do with the lowest corporate/top earner tax rates in the country’s history.

So the fact that America’s middle class was able to thrive under higher corporate and top bracket tax rates is one fundamental reason I reject the conservative philosophy of cutting taxes to promote economic growth. But there is another more basic reason I reject this theory: it relies on an unchecked assumption, a dangerous wishful thought that wealthy people will take their money and invest it in American businesses, and that American businesses will invest in domestic labor, thereby providing jobs for the unemployed and wealth to the middle class and working class. This Rube-Goldberg-esque strategy for growing an economy (also referred to as supply-side economics, Reaganomics, and trickle-down economics) is not only an overly complicated way to accomplish job creation; it was also recently debunked on the most public of stages.

Mitt Romney became a caricature of the 1% during his presidential campaign. The revelation of his offshore bank accounts and the details of Bain Capital’s outsourcing of jobs were not just personal blemishes for Romney, they were direct indictments of the economic principles he was ostensibly representing for the Republican Party. His actions alone serve as a case study proving that the rich do not necessarily reinvest in America, and cutting their taxes will not indirectly result in more wealth for America, just more wealth for them.

Even if someone wanted to discount Mr. Romney’s shady (albeit legal) investment and business strategies as unrepresentative of America’s elite, there is another undeniable trend that contradicts Republican’s key economic philosophy.  Countless studies show increasingly wide disparities between the income gains of top earners versus everyone else.

“The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported in 2011 that between 1979 and 2007 the top 1 percent of households saw their income grow by 275 percent, while for the bottom 20 percent, income grew by just 20 percent. For the middle 60 percent of Americans, average incomes grew just under 40 percent.”  http://www.cnbc.com/id/100384824

Now, if there were no significant unemployment to speak of, the exponential growth of wealth among America’s top earners might be justifiable, but the disparity in income growth coupled with current levels of high unemployment instead illustrates that more money at the top does not create more jobs at the bottom. So the attempt to justify more wealth at the top (via tax cuts) in order to stimulate economic growth (i.e. jobs) is without merit.

Back to the idea that “For the economy to get better, people will have to start buying more stuff.” The funny thing about this statement is that it is not just a semi-complete proposal to fixing America’s economy, it would also serve as evidence that the economy is fixed. It is a chicken-and-egg-type paradox that rests on the premise that people (not just wealthy ones) actually have money to buy stuff. Some might even call the statement illogical based on circular reasoning, but as long as there is a way to inject the missing money to the people–so they can buy stuff—the theory works.

We already know how Republicans propose to trickle money to the masses, and keep in mind that their tax cutting strategies would not directly do much good for the 47% of Americans who don’t pay those taxes to begin with. So what are the alternatives?

Some have suggested the Federal Reserve Bank should simply print more money and give it to poor people who are likely to spend it on goods and services from domestic businesses (see here). That could have the effect of creating a demand for more labor and consequently lower unemployment, but the risk of inflation is always a concern when the government starts printing large quantities of money. Even if evidence shows that the risk of inflation is negligible or non-existent (and there is evidence to support this), I doubt this idea of “money for nothing” will ever gain much political traction in Washington.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Ben Bernanke has been executing a more complicated form of getting Federal Reserve money into the hands of consumers, but his quantitative easing strategy, while thought to be relatively effective at stabilizing the economy, appears to be nearing an end. And since it is not the Federal Reserve Bank’s responsibility to independently determine fiscal policy matters for the country, looking to Bernanke for further solutions is a dead end.

Democrats would almost certainly support higher taxes on top earners and corporations in an effort to redistribute wealth to those who would spend it in this country (rather than sock it away in Switzerland), but the last tax fight was a bloody one and wasn’t much of a win for the blue team. A Republican led House of Representatives is not inclined to pass higher taxes, and Democrats don’t have enough leverage to bend their will.

The only remaining logical option is to get money to the masses in the form of higher wages. Some claim this will result in businesses reducing workforces to cut labor costs, but a sixty year history of minimum wage increases shows no predictable spikes in unemployment following the increases in wages.

The free market has done wonderful things for those at the top, but if growing income inequality means less money to spend for the people in the middle and at the bottom [it does] and a lack of consumer spending is keeping the economy from growing [it is], then the best option for a healthier economy and stronger middle class is higher wages for workers.

With select conservatives currently fighting for the elimination of the federal minimum wage altogether, getting higher wages for workers seems like a tough road for proponents, and it is indeed a road fraught with the usual political roadblocks, like big business’s ill-begotten influence, for instance. Yet there could be a glimmer of hope for this relatively simple solution.

Here’s why:

Republicans are currently engaged in a battle with demographics for the life of their shrinking party. The autopsy of Mitt Romney’s failed campaign led Republican leaders to the conclusion that they needed to make efforts to diversify the GOP, namely through gaining Latino voters with the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. That plan has yet to come to fruition, and like other political issues (take gun control, for example), necessary public support for passing major legislation has a short shelf life.

With minority outreach efforts to save the party dying fast, some pundits have speculated that the GOP can still survive as long as they increase turnout among their base voters. While this temporary form of life support might work, Republicans would certainly need something to offer the working class and middle class Americans that didn’t care enough to vote in the last election. Money, as thousands of years of world history has taught us, would be a sensible incentive.

But the GOP cannot promise any more tax breaks for the working class (who don’t typically pay much in taxes anyway) or the middle class. The immortalization of 98% of the Bush tax cuts was a major win for Republicans last year, so much so that no notable Republican can seriously advocate for more tax cuts that would benefit the working/middle class. It is doubtful that last election’s non-voters will show up at the polls simply to thank Republicans for their past tax-cutting efforts; it is going to take more. It is going to take the promise of higher wages.

Such a promise is in conflict with many of the big business interests which, in large part, fund the campaigns of Republican politicians. However, there are big business interests funding Democratic representatives as well, and there is plenty of support in the Democratic Party for increasing the federal minimum wage. If they can do it, so can Republicans. Doing so isn’t just the only way to save their party; it is also the smartest way to propel the economy beyond its current growth rate.

Breaking News: Snowden Captured

Tags

, , , ,

White House sources are confirming that British authorities have Edward Snowden in custody and are already preparing to extradite him to the United States.

Snowden was aboard a direct flight from Moscow to Cuba. When the flight crossed into British airspace, the pilot of the flight was instructed by communications from the Royal Air Force to make an emergency landing immediately. The pilot complied, and Snowden was discovered on board and apprehended immediately after the plane touched ground.

Details on the events leading to the capture of Snowden have already been leaked. According to reports, Snowden’s exact location was pinpointed to a specific gate at the Moscow airport, leading American authorities to discover the flight he boarded.

Rather than a coordinated effort by any particular American governmental agency, the successful effort to locate Snowden appears to have been carried out without authorization by, Urafúl Efubelibdis,  a foreign contractor working with the NSA as a low-level technology specialist. By tapping into a Russian cell phone data bases during his lunch break, Efubelibdis was able to mine through outgoing calls made to both the Kremlin and Knightsbridge, London, where Julian Assange has been taking refuge for the past year in Equador’s embassy. Snowden was believed to have been in contact with Assange and Vladamir Putin recently.

According to Efubelibdis, “There was only one match for a cell phone that called both Knightsbridge and the Kremlin within a short period of time from the Moscow airport.” After identifying the cell phone, Efubelibdis worked quickly to pinpoint the exact location of the phone. “I was worried the signal might not still be available, and I was surprised that I was able to find it so easily,” said Efubelibdis.

Not knowing exactly what to do with the information, Efubelibdis considered contacting the media to expose Snowden’s location; however, after some careful thought, he decided instead to bring this information to his supervisor at the NSA who then forwarded the information to the FBI and CIA.

Urafúl Efubelibdis gave the following comments to reporters before ending his press conference:  “I just thought what Snowden did was wrong, and I wanted to make sure he did not get away with it. I also wanted some fame and notoriety for being the person to expose such a big story. I know I wasn’t supposed to tap into Russia’s private cell phone databases, but in my opinion, the risk was worth it.”

Vladamir Putin has yet to respond on the matter from the Kremlin, but American intelligence officials are now closely monitoring Russia’s nuclear launch sites in fear of retaliation against the U.S.

(Editors note: the preceding piece is not really breaking news; it is more like broken satire. Feel free to criticize the effectiveness of the satire below if you please, but please don’t bother telling me these events never happened. In my mind, they did.)

Now it’s Zimmerman who is defenseless

Tags

, , , , ,

Lawyers gave opening statements yesterday in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin. After prosecutors characterized Zimmerman as a “grown man with a gun,” in contrast to the unarmed Martin, the defense issued what may be one of the weakest rebuttals in the history of high profile court cases:

“Trayvon Martin armed himself with a sidewalk and used it to smash George Zimmerman’s head.”

Really? Armed himself with a sidewalk? Did the defense team actually write that, practice reciting it, and verbally ejaculate that nonsense in front of a real jury?

Before yesterday, George Zimmerman’s chances of acquittal were excellent. Proving reasonable doubt to just one out of 6 people in a case with no eyewitness is a slam dunk. But after his lawyer painted the absurd image in the jurors’ minds of a scrawny teenage boy “arming” himself with a sidewalk, the chances of a guilty verdict rest squarely on the (in)competence of the defense. A defense, mind you, that allowed for an all female jury.

A good friend of mine who teaches psychology explained to me how the all female jury benefits the prosecution. She told me that women are generally more apt to let emotion guide their decisions, and since “REASON-able doubt” is all the defense needs [reason being the opposite of emotion] the defense would have been much better off with an all male jury or a jury with at least one member less biologically inclined to pathos.

Despite the poor defense team, I doubt justice will be served in this case. I do not usually have strong opinions regarding highly publicized murder trials. If I wasn’t at the scene to see a crime, I don’t feel like I have the right to an opinion, but this case is different. The accused does not deny pulling the trigger, nor can he deny the facts that disprove his claim to self defense.

Now, like every person in the courtroom, save the accused, I was not a witness to the killing of Trayvon Martin, but an indisputable fact of this case (as detailed in the 911 call) shows that Zimmerman initiated the tragic events that transpired.

After seeing what he believed to be a suspicious looking person running away, George Zimmerman exited his vehicle to follow that individual. In most parts of planet Earth, this is commonly referred to as chasing, even hunting or stalking — something the 911 dispatcher explicitly told Zimmerman he should not do. One of the individuals may have indeed been in fear for his life at this point, but it wasn’t the hunter. Zimmerman verifies that he and Martin made eye contact just before the teenager started running away. It is not much of an inductive leap to conclude who was scared at this point. After all, there is no good reason to be afraid of someone running away from you.

Perhaps the justified homicide defense that Zimmerman relies on could be viable–if Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before he began pursuing Martin, or maybe if Zimmerman believed Martin was fleeing en route to harm someone else.  But so far no facts or statements (even from Zimmerman himself) indicate that either of these options were the case. The self defense story does not start until after Zimmerman pursues Martin, and it is therefore completely illogical—as completely illogical as someone arming himself with a sidewalk.

A Better Change of Heart

Tags

, , ,

After more than 30 years of actively trying to convert homosexuals, the conservative institution Exodus International is ceasing operations. The decision coincides with a widely publicized apology from the President of the organization, Alan Chambers. Here is part of his statement:

“Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.
 
And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.
 
Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.
Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.
 
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.”
 

Apparently, Chambers regrets his organization’s efforts and never fully believed in what he was doing. His apology seems sincere, and it will certainly open up new discussions regarding the social acceptance and biological nature of sexual orientations, but one particular paragraph of his apology struck me as far more important than the others:

 

“I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.”
 

Imagine that. An outspoken follower of Christ who doesn’t “have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.” That is progress — not just for homosexuals or for heterosexuals, Christians or non-Christians. Chambers’ new-found ideology represents progress for anyone who legitimately claims to believe in the ideals and virtue of personal liberty.

The Great White Hope

Tags

, , , , , , ,

A few months ago, there was very little for Republicans to be optimistic about. After the Presidential election, their focus was on how to revive and grow their party in order to make a better showing in 2016—or maybe even in the 2014 midterm elections.

The first solution they seemed agree upon was courting Hispanic voters with immigration reform. This was not a bad idea, and prominently featuring Marco Rubio as the face of GOP immigration reform (as well as the face of a new minority-friendlier party) was pretty good too. However, somewhere along the way, things on the immigration reform front started falling apart. Maybe it was the amnesty vs. no amnesty debate; maybe it was the realization that just about any proposal to create policies that were favorable to undocumented Hispanics would only create more Democratic voters. Continue reading

The Declining Anti-Obama Argument

Tags

, , , , , , ,

In his critique of Barack Obama’s “declining presidency” yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes makes some accurate observations. The assessment that Obama’s administration is flailing due to the lack of a defined vision for his second term is fair. Indeed, the Obama re-election campaign never shifted away from an anti-Romney message long enough to establish any sort of primary goal for moving America boldly in one direction or another. Barnes also concedes that the “scandals” currently making headlines have little to do with the President himself or the ineffectiveness of his six-month-old second term. Yet beyond those two fair and balanced points made by the Fox News pundit, Barnes’ analysis devolves into a flimsy, subjective argument that is both misleading and ignorant of some major political truths—some of which would even advance the anti-Obama agenda he so clearly supports. Continue reading

What my kids will learn about Bush 43

Tags

, , ,

Apparently for George W. Bush, doing absolutely nothing for America over the past five years is a major improvement over eight years of enacting failed policies, a 14% improvement to be exact. According to the most recent polling from Gallup, 47% of Americans now give former President Bush a favorable rating; when he left office in 2009, his approval rating was 33%. The latest numbers come as Bush attempted to cement his legacy with the opening of a Presidential library in Texas last week.

The opening of the library and an antagonizing email from my Dad (one of W’s biggest fans) got me thinking about what my two sons—2 years old and 6 months old—might read about George W. Bush in their history ebooks when they get to school. I think a fair summary might look something like this:

Controversy surrounded George W. Bush’s Presidential election in 2000. Having lost the popular vote by over half a million votes, George W. was appointed to the presidency by five members of the U.S. Supreme Court who overturned a Florida Supreme Court decision to recount the state’s razor-thin election results which originally showed Bush winning by a mere 537 votes, or .00009% of the state’s total electorate. One of the Justices ruling in favor of Bush had been appointed by George W. Bush’s father. Continue reading

A Terrorist by Any Other Name…

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

https://i1.wp.com/cdn3.likethedew.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/labels.jpg

In 2011 a deranged terrorist overseas used a car bomb to kill eight people before proceeding to kill an additional 69 with a gun. He was not a Muslim. And while the media reported the man was a fundamentalist Christian, absolutely nothing about this individual’s demented world view resembled the predominant themes of New Testament ideology. Nevertheless, such identifiers as Christian extremist, Christian fundamentalist, and anti-Muslim Christian extremist were repeatedly woven into news reports and commentary regarding one of the most heinous acts of terrorism ever.

It is important to note that the perpetrator (name intentionally omitted)of the aforementioned terrorist act in Oslo, Norway claimed to be “100 percent Christian,” and it is just as important to note that other self-proclaimed Christians, such as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, denounced the man’s faith, saying, “No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder.”

For the record, as a Christian, I agree with Bill O’Reilly’s assessment. O’Reilly clearly believes that perverted Christianity is not Christianity, and he is right. There are no such things as “Christian extremists” or “Christian terrorists.” Those are contradictory monikers; there are simply extremists and terrorists who falsely claim to be Christian.

So why are terrorists from the Middle East accepted by Western society as Islamic? There seems to be a hazardous double standard applied when the religion is no longer Judeo-Christian and skin pigmentation shifts a few shades darker than that of Bill O’Reilly’s.

I will grant that the terms “Islamism” and the related “Islamist” are generally accepted as referring to a specific brand of Islam that promotes violent jihad, but just because something becomes generally accepted doesn’t make it accurate or righteous. Labeling blacks in America with the n-word was generally accepted into the twentieth century.  The term Islamism was not bequeathed graciously to extremists by mainstream Muslims. Instead, the term Islamism has been applied for decades by non-Muslim academics who seek to differentiate between non-militant Muslims and militant Middle Easterners.

Recently I spoke to Alan Hunt, host of the nationally syndicated Alan Hunt Show, and made the point that it is no more logical to call a suicide bomber in Iraq a “Muslim terrorist” than it is to call the Oslo terrorist a “Christian Terrorist.” Continue reading

Incentivized Parenting:Part 2

Tags

, , , , , , ,

The response to last week’s post regarding incentivized parenting ™ generated some great debate.  Many of the comments, specifically those from a handful of teachers in low income schools, were supportive of the idea to tie student performance to welfare benefits (see here). I think that is promising, especially considering that those teachers are generally concerned with the wellbeing of the students they teach (although an argument could be made that the focus on teacher accountability is shifting teachers’ priorities away from what is best for the students).

Another reader, with some interesting credibility, is also supportive of the idea to tie welfare benefits to academic performance, although she has some reservations:

“I love this idea, as a former welfare recipient and a former case worker in the very same welfare-to-work program I was a client in. One issue that scares me to think about is the backlash this would cause for kids.”

And there were many other comments that raised critical concerns regarding the implementation of a program that has the potential to strip poor families of resources. I have done my best to respond to these concerns and keep the discussion going, but the shelf life of a blog post is only a few days and many readers have surely moved on.  With that in mind, I wanted to keep the issue of incentivized parenting alive by discussing some related programs that were featured in a New York Times article from 2011. Continue reading

Fixing Education AND Cyclical Poverty with Incentivized Parenting

Tags

, , , ,

In response to a new legislative proposal in Tennessee that seeks to tie student performance to welfare benefits, David Phillippe at Punditocracy wrote a critical response yesterday deeming the measure a “poverty punishment policy.” As a former public school teacher in a low income school district, some disturbing aspects regarding education in America lead me to disagree with Phillippe’s assessment.

The crux of my argument is based on personal observations—one teacher in one school—but I strongly believe the trends I witnessed are not isolated to one school, one county, or one state. My experience was simply a sad case study, clearly indicative of the two most pervasive problems facing America’s future generation of coddled underachievers.

Continue reading