May 22, 2010

God, Gays, and Guns.... And, Government...

Remember Bobby Jindal's response to president Obama's first State of the Union address?  Why do we spend millions of taxpayer money to monitor volcanoes, he asked, and that there's nothing Americans can't do on their own!  Then a volcano erupted... I'm sure you've heard of the recent oily mess off the coast of several states whose voters think Jindal's view of an impotent state is right on the money.

The conservatives keep saying that the marketplace can take care of the bad actors in it. Yeah, right. They say that bad, unsafe practices will be punished by the consumers and the court system. Of course, this doesn't happen because we know it hasn't! Bad practices, including illegalities aren't necessarily bad for business. Especially BIG business. Wall Street gambles, screws up, and what happens? Too big to fail comes to my mind. 

The people in charge of making decisions are rewarded with huge bonuses and golden parachutes. Their companies are "too big to fail" we're told. Often the end result is: privatizing the profit and socializing the risk. Capitalism for most of the people, socialism for the rich.

The government should be the expression of the public will and it should act in the interest of the people not the few elites. Guess what? The conservative rhetoric has managed to disorient too many Americans who believe "government takeover" means less freedom! Obviously, government is not the solution to everything. Nor, that the government cannot be abusive. Yes, it can. 

Yet, in an advanced democracy the government's role is to empower and protect. Who really needs this? The marketplace can't do this. Equality of opportunity, safety (workplace and individual), and consumer protection have not come because private business saw it fit to do so.  It came through collective action and government passing laws often in the face of visceral opposition from the big business interests and their political ally--the US Republican Party (20th century on).

Who should protect the public interest in the month-long ecological & economic disaster of the BP oil leak? Guess whose interests are served when the government regulators are absent. Or, that the law (passed with the help of lobbyists) limits the oil industry's liabilities to a few million dollars?  And, why did the oil industry got huge tax breaks (while the government failed to collect royalties for it) while it was making record profits?

The T-baggers are angry at government in general--and some of their anger is justified--but their anger is only matched by their misunderstandings & misconceptions. We need better government that serves the commonwealth, not the interests of those who have lots and want more.

By the way, who's going to protect me from the gun-totting tots who want to walk around and go into coffee shops, restaurants and bars professing their Second Amendment rights? I thought we left behind the Old West lawless frontier, and we decided that a civil society has found other means to protect itself than having everyone carry guns everywhere.

Yeah, God, Gays, and Guns...  {who said this?...}

May 19, 2010

Primary Election Results Show Divergent Paths for Dems & Repubs.

Some interesting results from yesterday's primaries where the most active/interested party members participate. Granted the turnout is usually low for such elections, but it's an indicator of the base's direction and mood.

The Dems defeated party switcher Arlen Specter who's been a senator from PA for the last 30 years. Specter had been endorsed by the Dem establishment and president Obama. There's a runoff election in Louisiana where the incumbent conservative Dem Blanch Lincoln will have to face a more progressive Dem for the nomination. Both of these events are good.

The two parties spent millions of dollars to win Murtha's seat in PA (he died recently) in a very conservative district. The Dem won but the two partisans will face off again in November. We got a Blue Dog DINO here, but his opponent is far worse.

Another interesting development in KY where an extreme Teabagger won the Repub nomination. The Democrats may have a better change of winning the Senate seat in a conservative state in November, hopefully--if Kentuckians have any sense left.

Not a Mainstream Party Anymore?
As I've said before, the Republican party has moved far to the right because of the pressure it has from wingnuts. But, the Republican leadership (and its mouthpiece FOX) is responsible for promoting such lunacy. Unfortunately for them, that political base is rather small, especially nation-wide, and it's not getting bigger.  But, it seems that in order to get the GOP nomination, the path goes through the crazy land.

John McCain, back in 2000, understood this and he decided to become a much more conservative politician since he wanted to get the presidential nomination. He did and he picked Sarah Palin as the cherry on a stinking old pie.  Now, Newt Gingrich--the disgraced former Speaker of the House--is seriously thinking of running for president.

"The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did"

Asked whether such remarks [from his book and public statements] are a over the top, Gingirch  responded, "No, not if by America you mean the historic contract we’ve had which says your rights come from your creator, they’re unalienable, you’re allowed to pursue happiness." Gingrich should know the history of our country. Our constitution begins with, "WE THE PEOPLE". The rights and political system we established here came from human authors. Nowhere in the constitution the word "god" is mentioned nor that the rights come from divinity. Happiness, by the way, is pursued only if there are appropriate conditions that allow it. Equality of opportunity is a fundamental principle of our polity but it's easily forgotten by the conservatives and those who want to maintain a system that works best for the small upper class.

Guess what? He's jumped on the loony wagon too. Obviously, if that's what some people want to hear, that's what they want their leaders to say, but it is very disturbing to have this kind of political discourse in the 21st century USA.

May 6, 2010

A Country Where The Lunatic Fringe is Still at Center Stage. Where?

We have way too many loons in this country, and unfortunately the have ..critical mass so they are a force that steers our polity into the wrong direction. Several recent events have showcased something ugly about our society.

One. The love of guns. When the framers of the Constitution thought of the "right to bear arms" all they knew was the technology of the 18th century. In that time you could carry a musket and a knife. In our times this right definitely doesn't mean ownership of attack helicopters, bazookas, F16s, and nuclear warheads. For the life of me, I don't understand why so many Americans don't want any restrictions on gun ownership. We have members of the US Congress that say a known terrorist shouldn't be restricted in buying AK-47 assault rifle, even though such person is on the no-fly list and can't board a plane.

What kind of a country do we want when we allow every person (usually without any background & mental checks) to own & carry openly? In the reality of the frontier strapping one on your hip was perhaps necessary but at some point civil communities decided that it was better for pubic safety to have law enforcement do the gun totting. Now in certain states, persons can carry guns to coffee shops, bars, and everywhere else! Sure, I can't imagine a problem with this. 

Guns are openly displayed by angry men at political rallies too. Have you noticed the violent rhetoric of those idiots? How about the rhetoric of their leaders and other irresponsible talking heads? "It's time to re-load," and "put the cross-hairs on the target," the Sarah Palins extort us!

Can you imagine the reaction of the wingnuts if blacks were using the same rhetoric and carried guns to demonstrations & political rallies?...

Two. When Congress tries to pass comprehensive health care coverage, the usual suspects cry, "stop government takeover"!  At least 10 states are suing arguing that the latest health care bill is unconstitutional! Yet, the other provisions of the Bill of Rights--like due process--are ignored.  Did you see a poll that suggested most Americans approve of the new Arizona immigration law? Geesh.  On suspicion of being  an unauthorized immigrant, the authorities can detain you if you don't have the proper papers. Nice. We're safer now, aren't we? But, what are those crimes we should be really concerned about?

The criminals who infiltrate our borders don't come over to steal a job from an American. They're hear to satisfy another demand: illegal drugs.

Speaking of terror, why should we shred the Constitution in the illusion that we'll be safer? Provisions that give suspects (and, yes, criminals) certain rights are there to protect the rest of us. Due process, legal representation & procedures define our system. The would-be Times Square bomber (whose smoking SUV was spotted and reported to the police by a couple Muslim street vendors) is cooperating with the authorities. Same with the Xmas airline bomber who became cooperative because of the proper (and civil) treatment he received. No torture has been necessary.

Three. We have a unquenchable thirst for energy and for petroleum. I'm told that it's our g0d-given right to use resources like there's no tomorrow, but something has to be done about it now. Funny thing, some states that are more pro offshore drilling are feeling the ill effects of the BP disaster in the Gulf.  Kudos to the guvernator of CA that changed his mind after seeing the catastrophe.  

But, why worry about the environment when Jesus will return in the near future? I'm not kidding. The majority of Americans believe that the messiah will make an appearance in their lifetime (next 30-50 years?) at which point you can kiss the world goodbye! Yeap, and the Theory of Evolution is just a guess--this is the belief of the majority of our countrymen. Sad.

PS/Update (5/10/10): Just is case you think the lunatic fringe is limited to just a few disgruntled individuals...  I don't believe that all conservatives or Republicans are stupid, bigots, ignorant, selfish, and mean. No, but the loons are most likely to be conservative and Republicans. Unfortunately, the GOP has shifted way to the extreme conservative side in order to appeal to such people.
Take for example the second populous state, Texas, and the state Republican party there. Here's the Texas Republican Party platform--their official ideology & policy proposals. Yeah, this is where much of the GOP is located today.