Archive for the 'Politics' Category

15
Sep
11

Can’t play by the rules? Change ’em.

I think it’s awesome that Republicans would rely on electoral chess to try to win an election rather than the merits of their ideas about how to help American citizens. And by “awesome” I mean “cynical, ugly and disappointing.”

Continue reading ‘Can’t play by the rules? Change ’em.’

09
Sep
11

Obama’s got game

I’m impressed with President Obama’s politicking in the last couple of weeks.

First he forces Republicans to deny a president a speech to a joint session of Congress, for the first time ever, drawing more attention to the speech. Then he has the grace to accept an alternate date, proposed by a Republican. (He also had no choice, but he still looks good.)

The pre-speech leaks did not convey the breadth of his proposals, so last night’s speech seemed even bigger in comparison.

Finally, so many of his proposals are Republican ideas, that they look even more obstructionist when they push back at the plan—especially in an environment where the public hates Congress even more than they hate the president.

The speech may have been a master stroke of election politics, but it also has the added benefit of being a helpful plan that might actually be passable—except that congressional Republicans are more intent on making Obama a one-term president than actually doing anything to serve their jobless constituents.

10
Nov
10

Trickle-Down Down

The finer points of economic theories have eluded me for most of my life. I’ve had enough book learning to understand that supply-vs-demand graph, but it pretty much ends there.

It’s a shame, really, because so much of what drives the current political debate is supposedly about the economy. And I know a lot of it has to be bullshit, but I don’t know enough to know what not to believe. So I usually dismiss most of it as political clap trap. Doesn’t matter what either party says on the campaign trail. Chances are it’s not going to happen anyway.

When I hear Republicans and Tea Partiers hammer away at their small-government/cut-taxes/create-jobs dogma, it makes me wonder if they’re as interested in the truth about how the world really works as they are in convenient populist political ideology.

So I got curious about that tent post of the Right, the axiom that, above all else, cutting taxes is an absolute guarantee of job growth. Is this true? Can it be proved?

Continue reading ‘Trickle-Down Down’

03
Nov
10

Of Coffee and Donuts and Half-Eaten Hoagies

On Election Day, I always have a soft spot in my heart for the volunteers working the polls. Every polling station has some variation of the same thing: a half dozen retirees, sitting on folding chairs, stationed at folding tables, a box of a dozen donuts on one side, a slowly cooling polystyrene cup of coffee on the other. They look over the rims of their glasses at you. They squint in the dull fluorescent, sometimes gently flickering, light.

Whatcha last name, hon?

Continue reading ‘Of Coffee and Donuts and Half-Eaten Hoagies’

21
Oct
10

To Ask or Not To Tell, That is the Question?

Following the news about the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy can be dizzying. Reporters have a hard time explaining this. Gay citizens are feeling confused and disappointed. Everyone else is just flummoxed. It’s like: Am I reading this correctly?

So, last week a court ruled that DADT is unconstitutional and the Pentagon could not enforce the policy. In turn, the Pentagon announced yesterday that it will stop investigations and discharges of gay soldiers and will now accept openly gay recruits. Nice work.

The then the administration responded by asking for a freeze on that court’s decision. So, in effect, the Pentagon can enforce DADT. Wait… what?

While the appeals court reviews the policy, there’s a lot of judicial uncertainty about what precisely the rules are. So the Department of Justice, with urging from the White House, asked for this stay to temporarily maintain the status quo until there’s a firm decision.

Continue reading ‘To Ask or Not To Tell, That is the Question?’

11
Oct
10

Hungry, Hungry Hypocrite?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is getting some guff for pushing to prevent poor families from buying sugary snacks and sodas with food stamps while at the same time offering similar items to employees at his financial firm. This is the height of hypocrisy, some say. (“Mayor’s Soda Plan and His Company’s Policy Differ“)

He has, on the record, served junk food at Gracie Mansion and at events in his townhouse. Further — gasp — he uses salt at home.

So, does this deflate his argument that poor families should not be using food stamps to buy crap for their kids? Not at all.

Bloomberg’s employees are given healthy snacks as well as Coke and Fanta. I agree 100% that it’s a little weird that he gives away soda. His employees are basically a captive audience. They will take what is given to them. Just like families on welfare. They’ll take what’s available to them. So, to align better with his public policy, he should probably do away with the free junk food at work.

Better yet, he should install a vending machine. Then will people have to actually buy the stuff. It would be completely their choice and their responsibility.

If he wants to salt his food and if his employees want to spend their own money on junk food or bring in whatever they buy from elsewhere, let them. But we should not allow poor families to use taxpayer money to buy crap for their kids. Force them to make better choices. Lobby retailers to offer better options.

Food stamps should be used for things that are actually nutritionally beneficial for kids. Anything else is a waste of money and an insult to the taxpayers who fund assistance programs. Food stamps are for food: fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, milk. Someone at some point has already had to decide what families are allowed to purchase with food stamps. Items have already been vetted and either added to or eliminated from the program. Under further scrutiny, it’s a very excellent idea to cut as much nutritionally void content as we can. A government in the business of assisting its less fortunate citizens has a responsibility to give them access to the good stuff, not some bullshit that’s going to make them worse off.

10
Sep
10

In Defense of “The Media”

It’s tiresome to see so many people blame The Media for blowing this Terry Jones thing up into something bigger than it should be. As if The Media is some sort of insidious, evil force desperate to manipulate reality. It’s such a cheap, thoughtless and simplistic cop-out. The Media. What does that even mean?

Continue reading ‘In Defense of “The Media”’

19
Mar
09

The Right Looks Up ‘Marriage’ and Finds ‘Revolution’

A right-wing Web site is fuming over their recent discovery that Merriam-Webster has added a secondary definition of marriage to its pages.

World Net Daily sarcastically reported Tuesday:

“One of the nation’s most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term ‘marriage’ should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition.”

The change occurred years before any states legalized gay marriage. It went unnoticed until now, apparently because writers at World Net Daily do not make frequent use of dictionaries.

(Personally, any publication that accepts written work from Ann Coulter, and that hawks “Where’s the birth certificate?” bumper stickers (attempting to call into question Barack Obama’s citizenship), doesn’t have much of value to say to the more thoughtful readers of the world. But I digress.)

Merriam-Webster editors are mystified by the fuss. From the story:

“Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing dictionary users with accurate information about all of the word’s current uses,” the company said, adding that it was surprised by the recent attention because it was “neither news nor unusual.”

“We were one of the last ones among the major dictionary publishers to do this,” said Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell.

Someone who commented on a YouTube video complaining about the definition says, “The word ‘marriage’ has never been synonymous with same sex relationships,” said the forum participant. “What is happening is the meaning is being changed to trigger it becoming synonymous, not the other way round.”

If he’d take his bible out of his ass long enough to concentrate, he’d realize that the definition does not make heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage synonymous. What it signifies is merely that the term is used in that way. It is a figurative meaning.

Dictionaries include figurative and idiomatic meanings for a great many words. Note definition No. 6 of dig and definition No. 5 of bird.

The World Net Daily writer goes on to cite a 1913 dictionary definition that not only doesn’t mention same-sex marriage, but in fact adds biblical references to the traditional definition. In fact they are citations, meant to show context, not that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or God himself are editors of dictionaries. It could have just as easily referenced a Jane Austen novel.

More importantly, should we be shocked that a word’s usage should change between 1913 and the year the Merriam-Webster change was apparently made? Of course not. Why would a 1913 publication of any sort refer to “same-sex marriage” when that concept wasn’t even part of the public consciousness? It would be like expecting Oscar Wilde to identify as “gay.” He never would have done so. Does it mean he wasn’t a big flaming queen? Certainly not.

Completely outside of the argument for or against gay marriage, consider the idiocy of World Net Daily’s complaint. I’m not thrilled that “ain’t” is in the dictionary, and that school students gleefully point to it to justify poor grammar. However, its legitimacy is determined not by whether you or I like it, but by whether or not it is used — and useful — by speakers of English. Whatever you think “ain’t” implies about its user, we all know its meaning. Ergo: ain’t.

Same-sex couples in long-term relationships have long thought of themselves — and referred to themselves — as being “married.” It’s a matter of convenience, being far less wordy than “partnered with a member of the same sex.” And until very recently on the scale of human history, we didn’t have a choice but to be figurative.

04
Feb
09

The ‘M’ Word

The discovery of Tom Daschle’s whopping unpaid tax bill of $146,000 is a big let down to say the least. I always liked Daschle, his goofy red glasses, his cogent and clear-headed leberalism, his class and demeanor as Senate majority leader. I loved that he was respected (dare I say it?) Democrat during the Bush administration. But he is reduced in an instant to a rusty old Washington crony. His specs are cracked and our president’s vision is blurred.

One bright spot in the whole mess was Barack Obama’s admission on half a dozen networks that he made a m— … a mmm— … mmmistake!

“I think it was a mistake. I think I screwed up,” he said.

I nearly choked on my coffee when I heard it on NPR. In the last eight years, I cannot recall a single instance of George W. Bush ever admitting to a mistake. The word never even got stuck in his throat, because it apparently never even entered his mind. Even his press secretaries would infuriatingly admit nothing more than “mistakes had been made,” but no one ever was culpable — except the scapegoats he expelled from his administration after they had done all they could to undermine the will of the people.

I respect a man who knows when he screws up. Whether or not Obama was cornered by the press, whether or not his mea culpa was a calculated move, this signifies a major turn in the conduct of the nation’s highest office. It is a turn toward the light.

But there is still a major problem in Washington. OK, first of all, who are these people not paying taxes? It defies explanation in obvious ways.

And do they seriously think it won’t be discovered? Especially following the scandal around the confirmation of the new treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, who owed $43,000 himself? Daschle probably would have made it through if he hadn’t stepped out of the process, and it’s a good thing he did. But the real kicker is he probably would have been tremendously effective as head of health and human services. We are all losing out here.

There must be a common root to this problem. Why does all this scrutiny happen during the cabinet confirmation process? Why not earlier? Why is their no indication of their “error” until this confirmation process begins? The damage is done when the taxes are not paid, not when the non-payment is discovered.

Maybe some good will come out of all this exposure, and the president will look into some measures to prevent these people from not paying their taxes. Serving in the government is a privilege, not a free pass. How about we set up a new branch of the IRS to go after these people — not the little people like you and me. Let’s guarantee that senators and representatives and other elected Washingtonians are paying their taxes from the beginning? Don’t they count? Certainly they do, and I’m sure there are legions more of these folks, each owing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Getting wind of Daschle’s planned withdrawal, Nancy Killefer, a nominee to a lesser position, chief White House performance officer, pulled out as well because of unpaid taxes on a household employee. I guess she owed no more than $900. Not a big deal. She could write a check right now. But the principle stands, and in this climate she was wise to disentangle herself from the administration.

Let’s hope the others in line for the cabinet wise up and start putting their fellow citizens before their wallets and their careers.

There’s always hope, I guess.

02
Feb
09

The Toke of Hope

  Michael Phelps
His abs still go on for days. Clearly he’s not a pothead. Who cares?
[www.thelifeofluxury.com]

Michael Phelps has smoked pot.

Next.

His swimming career will be unaffected, but he will probably lose endorsement money on this, which is a bummer, but only a temporary setback.

We’ve hung the hopes of a nation around his neck, weighing him down with each gold medal (as if his success has anything at all to do with me or you). How dare he betray us? How dare he be capable of error?

Whatever. Speaking of him strictly as a public figure, I’m glad. He may be a genetic freak marvel, born to torpedo through chlorinated waters and mug for the Wheaties box. He may have more focus and drive in one day of training than you or I could muster over a lifetime. But in a backward sort of way, his one-time-only (as far as we know) toke should give us all hope. It is proof positive that he is human — and that maybe we all have a shot. Any other attitude suggests staggering hypocrisy to me.

Barack Obama is another one we have built up to impossible heights. And he’s a smoker. Dirty, dirty smoker! A producer for This American Life recently begged the American public: Please do not, by public outcry and hypocritical posturing, drive those American Spirits from his lips! Barack Obama is a hero, a savior, an untouchable. We adore him because we are not like him. He is better than us.

Bullshit. He is us. And his clandestine tobacco habit proves it.

As our friend Judy Bernly once said, “I smoked a marijuana cigarette at a party once. I could never figure out what the big deal was.” One thing’s for sure: Phelps is a man, not a mouse. Well, he’s definitely not a wouse.




the untallied hours