Friday, May 14, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The world's greatest reason for cutting fossil fuels out of our energy policy continues unabated. Really. When BP and its contractors applied for the drilling lease, was the "In Case Of Accident" plan "Make shit up as we go along"? If you've never tried capping a well at 5,000 feet, then maybe you shouldn't be drilling the fucking thing in the first place. Of course, if you're going to ALLOW a 5,000 foot deep drilling, you might, you know, want to make sure it won't kill the economies of the people who elected you in the first place...
2) A 46 year old Robin Hood? In a prequel? No thanks. No. Really.
3) If you buy a car, you know the price before you've even sat down to discuss terms. Why is the same not true for healthcare, even after reform?
4) We can thank healthcare reform for one thing: we still have a live president.
5) Yogi claims he's lived 70 years without food or water. Garbage? He spends two weeks under "careful" scientific scrutiny and survives.
6) Turkey and Greece burying hatchet? This would be like Al Gore and Glenn Beck sharing a beer. But Turkey needs admittance to the EU (which Greece can block) and Greece needs access to Turkey's economy.
7) Of course, Greece could make significant inroads into its problems by just surveying swimming pools and luxury houses.
8) The youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo is nearly home.
9) And pick up your eyeballs with your last paycheck!
10) They're called "knobs" for a reason.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

The battle over the recent Arizonan attempts to dehumanize immigrants is beginning to take form. Already, boycotts have been announced, particularly targeting the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game to be held in Phoenix.
But, interestingly enough, the protest may have an ace in the hole of an unusual nature: evangelical Christians.
Tea Party activists and other conservatives are planning rallies next month in support of Arizona's tough new immigration law, which has come under attack from Democrats, Latino groups and some maverick Republicans.

But a growing chorus of conservative evangelical leaders has broken with their traditional political allies on the right. They're calling the Arizona law misguided and are attempting to use its passage to push for federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The group, which includes influential political activists such as Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy wing, and Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law, will soon begin lobbying Republican leaders in Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform under President Obama.


It does my heart good, as a liberal Christian of long standing, to see some of Jesus' teachings finally make it into a large segment of Christianity. It does beg the question, "what took you so long?" because frankly, any progress from marching lock-step with the elements of hatred in this nation is a good thing.

But the question will have to be asked at some point.

The question that cannot be begged at this point is why? What is it about this issue that finally got someone wearing a backwards collar, or at least pretending to, to sit up and take notice that Jesus would likely demand better treatment for these people.

This nation, this great and bountiful nation, not even half full, has plenty: plenty of room, plenty of resources, plenty of energy, plenty of moxie. We can afford to take more people in.

Hell, given immigration's role in the bounty that is America, right now we NEED immigrants. Immigration, first generation Americans who brought families and friends over to America, are the single biggest economic engine in American history. No other factor, anywhere or anyone, can be shown to have created as much wealth as our simple act of stamping a passport and letting someone work.

So we need people who aren't afraid to walk down a street to earn a paycheck, to pay their fair share of taxes, and to enjoy the rights and privileges of an American in full.

You'll notice nothing in that paragraph talks about illegal immigration. That's because if I had my way, there wouldn't be any. If you wanted in, and were willing to work towards your citizenship, you're legal. Period. And if you're here to commit crimes, you're out. Period. It's just that simple. Any other standard is a standard of fear.

And I don't engage in fear.

And you'll notice that the only moral component of that argument is the motivation to crime of the person in question. None of this speaks to the objections of anti-immigrant forces in the land, about fairness or legalities or discrimination. To me, these arguments are precisely why religious leaders of all stripes need to pick up the banner. World history tells us that most immigrants have been persecuted in other nations and that most persecutions have occured either as racial or religious discrimination, sometimes both.

If they can be tarred with hate, the thinking should go, then I'm next. Again, we look to history and the French Revolution to understand the zealotry fomenting in the far right Teabaggers. It can, and will, go to extremes if it is not combatted and halted at every turn.

If we can tear the evangelicals away, even a little, we can do a world of good for our nation. It starts here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eating Our Own

I consider myself a Democrat by default.
Well, let me clarify that: I'm a Democrat of forty years standing who has stuck by his party through thick and thin, but if I was brand new to the scene, I would still choose the Democratic party. By default. I find the forces at work shaping the Republicans to be more than odious: I think they ultimately will destroy that party and if the timing is just right, could bring down the nation.
That's a different post, tho. Today, I'm going to credit the Teabaggers and their minions for some good: they've forced the Democrats to stop making deals with the devil.
The anti-incumbency furor that the Teabaggers have aimed at Congress (and to a degree, Obama's re-election, but that's going to gather momentum) has energized Democratic challengers. For example, Arlen Specter, who jumped parties a few years back to avoid just the problem he's facing now, has his hands full with Representative Joe Sestak.
Specter, in exchange for his switch, received the endorsements of nearly every bigwig in Pennsylvania. Sestak came from double-digits down to close within a margin of error.
Similarly, Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas & WellPoint Health) is sitting in the middle of a fire fight with a liberal challenger.
All this reveals itself against a backdrop that even FOX News is saying has shifted from a strong GOP bid to unseat Democratic incumbents to a "too close to call" battle to the wire.
Politics in the United States seems to be shaking off the rigid structure it has enjoyed for nearly thirty years of loyal blocs of opposition into more fractious and raucous pools of support, gathered under the banner of a political party that they generally support.
We started to move in this direction just after the Nixon administration: Democrats battled internally between the moderates and the far left, while Republicans battled between the Goldwater/Reagan faction and the more moderate Northeast and West Coast partisans.
This battle is so pervasive, it threatens every incumbent, right up to and including the two Senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who must contend with a new party platform that, frankly, is Van Goghish in its self-destructive insanity.
Democratic incumbents are not quite in that much danger from within. Specter is an odious creature and probably should have simply resigned for his own good, but a tip of the hat for switching parties and helping us get healthcare reform. Alan Mollohan, the fourteen term incumbent Congressman voted out yesterday, had a rap sheet of ethics scandals and dubious pork-barrell projects as long as your arm.
Good riddance, says I. Evolution is survival of the fittest and apparently his strategy ran its course. For me, all this instability means "pass the popcorn!"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Men Behind The Curtain

International relations are a dance: sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, but usually most of what you see is only half the performance.
Yesterday, Israel admitted it is just a step or two from open war with Iran. The war is not a full-scale conventional military one, but involves proxies like Hezbollah and is conducted on a limited but unending scale.
This is a good confession for Israel to make. It also seems to come in direct response to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's speech at the UN last week on the anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In that speech, Ahmadinejad warns against sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.
Insanity breeds insanity. You know, you think that the world would have learned the lessons of nuclear weapons, but then you realize that if American exceptionalism makes us feel that somehow the rules of the world don't apply to us, then what's to stop anyone, sane or not, from believing that those rules do not apply to them?
Indeed, the Bush (and now Obama) doctrine of pre-emptive military interventions simply give nations like Iran an excuse to flout the rules. As recent events in Times Square portend, Iran ain't the only one. And it ain't only nations.
And these doctrines are just the latest in a long series of hegemonic didactisms from a series of presidents stretching all the way back to Truman: the US will throw its weight around if it deems it necessary.
Which is fine if there's a genuine threat, in my opinion. The question becomes, then, what term of art is applied to "threat"? Communism was a threat, I suppose, when it was poised just ninety miles off the coast of Florida (it still is). But then the degree of that threat must be taken into account. Yes, when the Soviet Union was at its pinnacle of power perhaps the threat posed by Cuba was more formidable, but it's clear now that the threat from a tiny island off our shores is rather minimal.
History teaches us, tho, that the United States will define threats to mean practically anything. We overthrew the elected government of Mossadegh in Iran, and saddled them with the Shah. We paid a price for that, and that should have been the end of it. We overthrew a general in Iraq who nationalized the oil industry and replaced him with Saddam Hussein. We've paid a price for that any number of times, altho Saddam and Iraq have paid a much heavier price.
And then we pitted Iraq against Iran.
We've sort of earned the contempt of that region, and that's before we get anywhere near the Israel/Palestinian question.
And now, it seems, we've pitted Israel as our proxy against Iran, if the comments from Ya'alon are coupled with Hillary Clinton's reaction to the Ahmadinejad speech. It seems like we've played a pawn on the board. 
Nothing good can come of this.

Monday, May 10, 2010

God Is In The Details

There's a brand new scientific discovery which might lend a little street cred to liberals like me who got involved in liberal causes because we believe in God and Jesus.
To-wit, it seems that randomness is not as random as we've believed:

In 1938, the physicist Frank Benford made an extraordinary discovery about numbers. He found that in many lists of numbers drawn from real data, the leading digit is far more likely to be a 1 than a 9. In fact, the distribution of first digits follows a logarithmic law. So the first digit is likely to be 1 about 30 per cent of time while the number 9 appears only five per cent of the time.

There could be any number of unsettled and unsatisfying explanations for this, and I'm not going to insult your intelligence and expose my amateur understanding of physics and describe them.

What I am going to discuss is structure. The world according to science is a scary place: anything can, and will, happen and randomly.If you can imagine it, then somewhere in the infinite stretches of space and time, it's happened. Cthulhu exists, hell exists, even God exists coincidentally with an atheistic belief system.

Weird, right? All this presupposes one of three things: either the universe is an enormously huge, random, and complex system that not only can we not imagine, we can't even imagine imagining, or the universe is initially a random place but somehow informed by our consciousness and the consciousness of each and every creature capable of forming a thought, or there really is a God.

I think God has gotten a bum rap on earth. Perhaps somewhere in the universe there's a planet that gets Him and so He spends a lot of time there. I suspect this whole "human exceptionalism" thing that we on this planet indulge our egos in...and it doesn't matter if you're Christian or Jew or Muslim or even Buddhist...probably frustrates Him to no end.
So He (understand that I'm a lazy typist. God is likely without gender in my view) probably sits on a beach under some perfect sun on some perfect beach on another planet, looking in on us every so often to make sure we haven't blown ourselves up yet. Hell, I wouldn't waste a whole lot of time on a people that can't even sort out skin color easily! Good grief, when was the last time you saw a dog turn up his nose at another dog because he was brown?
And the world around us, with all its maze-like traps and the inherent instability and danger, is just one big practical joke on us.
There's a joke told in certain circles that when you die, you are confronted with two doors: One is absolutely empty, dusty and dank and in disrepair from underuse, and opens onto a short flight of stairs. The other is sparkling shiny clean, with a red velvet rope and two burly bouncers at the door and an endless line of people waiting to get in, under a sign that says "Lecture On How To Get To Heaven".
The sign over the unused door? "Heaven: This Way".