Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bullpartisanism & the Healthcare Summit

This week's healthcare summit has clearly meant many different things to many different people. What I have seen of the summit and responses thereto has boldly illustrated a principle to me. I have held this principle for a long time; I've been a political independent since I first found an interest in public policy.
excerpt from The Address of Gen. Washington To the People of America, on his declining the presidency of the United States
In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.

I hope that the fact that the summit took place during the week of Washington's birthday was not just a happy accident, for George Washington also held this principle.

The principle is simply that political parties are simple, stupid, and harmful.

Most of the coverage I have seen of the healthcare summit has amounted to an all-or-nothing two-player game. Who won the summit: the Democrats or the Republicans? Will the government dictate each of our medical acts, no matter how minute, or will we be free to pay for whatever doctors' waiting rooms we please with our hard-earned reward money?

The issue at hand, healthcare reform, like many (if not most) issues, is complex, intricate, and dynamic. Having only two options is unhelpful. Having those options be polar and irreconcilable is harmful. Clearly, positive change can be made in the middle. Political parties, by nature, fight to keep their members away from the middle, for fear of a single party member finding common cause with a single idea from another (the other) party.

This assessment is not intended as an attack on either (any) political party individually. All parties are guilty of this nature; this assessment is an attack on the very existence and usage of political parties.

From this point forward, I will strive to disregard all mentions of political parties. I will attempt to avoid even acknowledging their existence. Political parties are dead to me.

Without political parties, campaign financing will need some serious reform.

Surprise! Even if I acknowledged political parties, I would still say that campaign financing needs serious reform.

Here is a patriotic call to action: renounce your party affiliation.

You know what you want and need much better than any national self-serving organization possibly could. Identify your ideals and principles; stand up for them. Work for, against, in, or with issues and candidates, both of which are substantial. Avoid parties, which by nature are hollow.

In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, Bush and Gore both campaigned as candidates, not as representatives of their respective parties. These two frontrunners agreed on more issues than they differed on, and the election was close, and interesting. Gore won the popular vote while Bush won the electoral college and the presidency.

Partly as a result of a messy, ambiguous, nail-biting presidential election in 2000, the two major parties began to work out, so to speak. The parties villainized each other and emphasized their differences.

In 2004, Kerry and Bush ran as representatives of their parties. The election was still pretty close, and the election was still pretty messy, but this time, ideals and issues were not a large part of the equation.

In 2008, McCain ran as a representative of his party while Obama ran as a candidate. By a miracle, Obama-as-individual defeated McCain-as-party-member. Had Obama run as a representative of his party, or had McCain run as a candidate, the election probably would have been a lot closer, and McCain would likely have won.

Like Bush and Gore, McCain and Obama share more ideals and principles than than they disagree over.

Passionately and honestly, Obama has been fighting and fighting to move beyond the parties. Like Washington and Jefferson
excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern.
, who also stood against political parties, Obama fights for our leaders to be postpartisan. I am thankful that Obama has proved to be a great leader. A lesser person, like myself, would have given up hope in the face of what seems to be unshakable stubbornness from most of the United States Senators and Representatives. Like in his historically grassroots campaign, however, Obama shows grit, determination, and perseverance on a level that I certainly appreciate but cannot even begin to comprehend.

Many elected officials are retiring this midterm election year, and many incumbents face unprecedented challenges. The House and Senate seats that I will vote in this fall (Steve Buyer's and Evan Bayh's) will both be open. If I had a chance to vote against an incumbent though, I probably would.

I hope that the new class coming to Washington this fall has been watching and learning from their predecessors. Party politics help no one but the parties themselves. We need individuals in Congress. We need individuals in all of our leadership positions. We need Representatives who represent their constituents, not who represent their parties. We have a complex and effective governmental system. Democracy does not need, the United States does not need, and the American people do not need political parties.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sarah Palin & Sexism

Sarah Palin terrifies me.

Yikes.


She says crazy things and gets a lot of people all riled up. Whether she is really that crazy or she is just putting on a show, she frightens me. A lot of people idolize her, which, to me is even scarier than she is.

Strangely, I'm glad she's popular with the crazies.

Before Arizona Senator John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election, powerful and power-seeking women were pretty uniformly slandered with sexist and senseless comments like, "How can she lead us if she's on her period?"

Thankfully, McCain and Palin called foul over and over again until people cooled down on the sexist remarks. Palin continued to call foul on even semi-sexist attacks, like when Newsweek recycled a photo she did for an older fitness article. Sexism became her catch-all response to any criticism of her. At the time of the campaign, I found this overuse obnoxious, but now, in retrospect, I am glad she (seemingly) thoughtlessly threw the word around.

Regardless of her intentions, I have heard much, much less sexism toward female leaders. Unfortunately, more than enough sexism is still with us, but successes, failures, and in-betweens of female leaders seem to be regarded more individually these days. While the Tea-Partiers and Palinites might be wrong about a lot of things, I respect their ability to look at Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi as people, not as less-than-men-women. Regardless of whether they will admit it, they are making progress, bringing hope and change.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Look out, Marvel Comics: Tea Baggers are watching you!

In one of the most ridiculous stories of the week, tea party organizers are pissed at Marvel Comics for a vaguely anti-tea party storyline featuring Captain America.

The story can be found here.

So the tea baggers--yes, those very pleasant individuals that hurl personal insults at the president and his supporters, throw unfounded Socialist accusations, and generally attack everything outside their very narrow political/social agenda--are crying foul over a COMIC BOOK. Let me repeat that: tea baggers are offended and on the ropes from a COMIC BOOK.

These are the very people who sling nasty, personal attacks at political opponents and basically tell them to "suck it up and fight back". So now that the tea baggers are on the ropes, what do they do? They cry and demand an apology, which they got for some reason.

I cannot believe Marvel Comics' editor Joe Quesada and writer-extraordinaire Ed Brubaker actually apologized for this. I guess the tea baggers were REALLY pissed at all the anti-Nixon stuff in "The Watchmen", or all the hilariously-portrayed digs at GWB over the last 10 years or so.

Comic books are supposed to be social commentary, and they are NOT targeted at kids anymore--at least not the kind of book in question here. I have a feeling these tea baggers think all comic books are for kids, therefore someone with a "liberal agenda" is trying to indoctrinate kids with something other than anti-Socialist government-hating conservative values, and they just couldn't stand by and let that happen, now could they!

This is a ridiculous story and I hope someone over at DC or Image really grows a set and attacks these tea douches head-on. If they can't handle a little close-to-home criticism in a comic book, why should anyone take them seriously?

Oh, wait. They shouldn't.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kentucky bill would institutionalize religion

Without being explicitly stated, I would not be surprised if David Boswell (D-Owensboro, KY) was some version of Creationist/ID-proponent.

I'm basing my opinion on some "reading between the lines" of statements made to the Lexington Herald-Leader (found here).

Here are some of Boswell's statements to Jack Brammer of the Herald-Leader:

--The bill is not intended to teach the Bible as "the only religion".

--The class would "teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives that are pre-requisites to understanding contemporary society and culture".

This amounts to little more than a power grab by Boswell and his associates. His re-election is impending, and it's time to secure some swing votes! Duh!

What is particularly disturbing about this information is not that someone wants the Bible taught in public schools; that is always the case. What is scary is that this legislation could be used in certain instances to impose a MANDATE of religious study.

What happens if, particularly in a small school, students begin to be ostracized for NOT taking this Bible course?

What happens when an angry Jew, or Muslim, or wiccan, or naturalist, decides their religious text has the same societal and cultural value, and demands it be taught. If it's shot down in the legislature, it's going to appear very much as if the government is indoctrinating on religion over others.

If you read the entire article, you would see a quote by Sarah Jenislawski of the Bible Literacy Project, that read "An educated person is familiar with the Bible". This is the mantra/mission statement of the Bible Literacy Project. My question to her:

Can you be an educated person without familiarity with the following books?
--The Prince
--The Wealth of Nations
--People's History of the United States
--The Dialogues of Plato
--The Constitution of the United States
--Koran
--Hamlet
--The Odyssey
--The Heart of Darkness
--Letters from the Earth
--Catcher in the Rye
--and on, and on, and on, and on, and on...

According to the Bible Literacy Project, you cannot properly understand the following books without a working knowledge of the Christian Bible:

--The Grapes of Wrath
--Animal Farm
--Great Expectations
--The Sound and The Fury
--To Kill a Mockingbird
--Song of Solomon
--Brave New World
--Romeo and Juliet
--Hamlet
--The Pearl
--A Separate Peace
--Lord of the Flies
--etc.

Are you kidding me? If I don't understand the Bible I can't possibly understand The Grapes of Wrath, or Animal Farm? This is a ridiculous argument. This advocacy group is simply trying to attach value to the Bible with EVERYTHING in life, to therefore raise the status of the Bible in the average person's life. This agenda has no place in our public schools.

The obvious fear here is that with all these types of legislation popping up all over the country, the ultimate goal is to prime the schools and soften them to eventually try to insert Intelligent Design creationism/literal Creationism into the science curriculum.

Such a slippery slope exists here I almost feel it foolish to keep pointing it out. Where will it end? The next thing you know, there will be legislation to institutionalize "elective" prayer sessions over the intercom before the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. This may sound far-fetched, but to people in very small, rural schools, this kind of behavior would not only be forthcoming, but the people in power have enough will to make it happen. I feel horribly for those kids who are not truly religious or who have serious questions to have to bend to this fervor in fear of being outcast.

This is the OPPOSITE of separation of church and state. It just comes in the more palatable form of "elective" academic study and pretends not to promote one religion over another, even though BY DEFINITION it is promoting the value (societal and cultural) over others.

Such hypocrisy, so little time. People that don't want to become a theocracy need to fight this, keep it out of schools, so that all children are not indoctrinated with Christianity the way children in Iran are with Islam.

There is no difference except in geography and title. Frightening.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Update: New Age cult leader charged for 3 deaths!

You may remember an incident in October 2009 involving the deaths of three people in some New Age "spiritual warrior" retreat in the southwest USA. I wrote about it previously here.

As a result of what happened, James Arthur Ray--the founder and leader of this New Age cult--was arrested. Information regarding the events and his arrest are found here.

Hope James Arthur Ray pays for his involvement, and the manslaughter charge sticks. It seems pretty evident there was some definite neglect, or at least overwhelming incompetence.

THIS is the danger of New Age and "alternative" medicine.

Re: Fw: genius teacher experience is the ONLY TRUE teacher.

This forwarded email I received necessitates a column for the original message (left) and a column for my thoughts (right).

Fw: genius teacher experience is the ONLY TRUE teacher.I think this will be about Jesus (or Muhammad, or Buddha, or Gandhi, or George Washington, or...)

This teacher is truly a genius!
...maybe Gene Ray?
As the late Adrian Rogers said, "you cannot multiply wealth by dividing it." This man is truly a genius!
Stating tautologies makes a person a genius? Or are these two unrelated thoughts?
[unexplained photograph of someone raising his hand in front of a chalkboard in, presumably, a classroom] - ATT0002211.jpg
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class.
A person of similar humor and temperament may have said, "No, I do not have an extra sandwich; I have two extra sandwiches! You cannot have either of them, because you only asked if I had an extra sandwich."
That class had insisted that Obama's socialism would work and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

That class had said so in unison. Also in unison, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

How did I miss Obama's "great equalizer . . . socialism . . . [in which] no one would be poor and no one would be rich"?

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.
First exact quotation! This professor is apparently so smart that he doesn't have periods at the end of his spoken aloud statements!

If all grades were averaged, why would that eliminate the possibilities of 'F's and 'A's?
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.
The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.
This class was full of jerks? Crazy people? If no one could receive an 'A', why would the students who studied hard be upset with a 'B'? Why would they be upset with a 'B' anyway?
I'm starting to doubt the historical accuracy of this forwarded email...
As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little. The second test average was a D! No one was happy.
Okay, this is definitely a made-up story, a parable. If the students were unhappy with the 'B's they had all gotten last time, they should have studied more, not less.
They should have studied more unless they were unhappy because a 'B' was too good of a grade! They wanted 'C's! Oh, no! They overshot (undershot?) their goal and got 'D's. Now they should study marginally harder and get the great equalized 'C's! Then they can be happy!
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
Also, no one would study for the benefit of themselves. This story might make more sense if two classes were determining grades for each other, but in this story, students are getting bad grades for not studying. Maybe they should not have gotten 'F's since earlier in the story the narrator stated that "no one would fail and no one would receive an A." Moving on, everyone got an 'F', and no one would study for the benefit of himself, herself, or anyone else...
All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
This "class experiment" is only marginally analogous to socialism. Socialism does not involve "tak[ing] all the reward away." Socialism is the concept of equal opportunity, where everyone is given the same chance to try to succeed.
Presumably this story is supposed to demonstrate that free market capitalism provides the "great reward" to those who put forth "the effort to succeed", but the story really does no such thing. The students in the story failed to try, and the students in the story failed to succeed. Apparently they also failed to want to succeed?

Could not be any simpler than that. (Please pass this on)
What? What could not be any simpler than what? The moral did not even fit the story, both of which are confusing and misleading!
Remember, there is a mid-term election in 2010!Does that mean we should not vote because everyone gets just one vote? Or should those who are most informed and involved vote more often? Do the votes of the motivated/rewarded/successful count for more?

I am sorry that I made fun of some of the bizarre, gimmicky formatting and storytelling methods employed in the forwarded message.

I am also sorry that I do not have the time to debunk the forwarded message as thoroughly as it deserves. I doubt that this story is factually true (e.g., who is the " economics professor at a local college"?). As I mentioned above, I am certain that the story is confusing and that the conclusion drawn from the story is inapplicable to the story.

I am most disappointed that "the ONLY TRUE teacher" mentioned in the subject line teaches the opposite of what Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Gandhi, George Washington all teach. Jesus was a socialist, and he was executed for proclaiming his socialist beliefs. "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus tells us that the Statue of Liberty, Mother of Exiles, cries, "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! [ . . . ] Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The forwarded message offends me on many levels; it offends me as a human, as a humanist, as a socialist, as a Christian, and as an American, to name a few. I will stick with the parables that Jesus told. If you prefer this anonymous parable to those of Mr. Of Nazareth, suit yourself.

Please share your comments!