Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Black Is More Than a Skin Color

Dr. Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson is the current darling of the Tea Party Republicans. They eagerly lap up the lies and distortions of their anointed "black" leaders such as Dr. Carson. 

I question their motivations for the seeming adulation that they confer on Carson. I have this theory that the Tea Party Republicans (TPRs) love Dr. Ben Carson because it's politically expedient to do so. Poor TPRs have been accused of racism on more than one occasion, and they have vehemently protested that there is not a racist bone in any of their bodies. Of course, it doesn't help their cause that they display images of the President and the First Lady as monkeys and apes, and frequently aver that the President should be impeached for being uppity enough to believe that his office puts him in charge of this country.

Here's the clever part. The TPRs have figured out if they have their own black folks, in limited numbers of course, then they can refute the accusations of racism and proudly declare, "We have our own black people; we're not racists!"

Carson, Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Michael Steele etc. are the proud proof offered by the TPRs that in spite of their failure to do anything to address the disproportionate poverty that impacts people of color in the U.S., including black people, and their repeatedly declared opposition to any efforts to address the economic inequities that are as American as apple pie, they are not racists.

Whoop-ti-do! I have news for the TPRs; being black is more than a skin color. Just because someone's skin is cafe au lait or dark ebony doesn't make them a black person. Black is a state of mind. Black is surviving and growing strong in spite of the yoke around your neck. Black is not living in the past but it is about turning your eyes on that past and seeing it unfiltered and real. Black is believing and knowing that we shall overcome someday. Black is grabbing on to today and turning it into someday.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

All Opinions Are Not Equal

What's up with news stories with totally inaccurate attention grabbing headlines? 

For the past couple of days, headlines have proclaimed some variation of the following headline, Obamacare Will Cost 2.5M Workers by 2024. However, if you read the articles, it becomes clear that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not conclude that the ACA was a causative factor in the decrease of workers. The CBO concluded the reduction in worker hours was almost entirely because of workers choosing to work less. According to the CBO report, “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business’ demand for labor."

The problem is straightforward. A lot of people never read past a story's headline so their conclusions are based on a misleading headline. Some of those who read the article have poor reading comprehension skills and come away still believing that the ACA will cause 2.5 million people to lose their jobs. All of these misinformed people like to share their invalid information and the chain of people firmly believing information that is false grows by leaps and bounds. Couple that with the American belief in individualism and that all opinions are equally valid, and ill-informed opinion becomes fact for millions.

I think one of the dumbest statements that I see far too often is, "I'm entitled to my opinion." When people declare, "I'm entitled to my opinion," what they really mean is my opinion is of equal value to all other opinions.

There's no entitlement to be ignorant. If my opinion is that a giant turtle carries the world on his back around the sun, then my opinion has no value; it's worthless. Stating that I'm entitled to have it doesn't make it have merit. It's still worthless and of no value. 

All opinions are not equal. We do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that they are. All we need do is examine how many publicly funded schools in multiple states are allowed to teach creationism under state science education standards as an alternative to evolution. Additional states are poised to pass legislation this year to expand the science curriculum to include creationism.

Replacing intellectual analysis with personal opinion undermines our ability to make decisions based on facts and knowledge rather than belief. Ethics play second fiddle to a mish-mash of personal beliefs and emotions about groups of which we are not a member. A key tenet of our constitution's Bill of Rights is that the government shall not establish or govern religion, yet hot button issues such as abortion and gay marriage that divide us at present, center around the attempt of some Christians to impose their belief system on our system of secular law.

We have many issues confronting us that we must address as a nation and as a part of the world. Climate change is a reality, not an abstract theory. Access to clean water, clean energy, and clean air are essential to the survival of all of this planet's inhabitants. Working together is necessary, but to do so we have to develop diplomatic strategies and policies for resolving our differences and not fall back on wars and police actions as problem solvers. We need to work collectively on solutions to these issues, not cling to opinions shaped by misinformation and narrow belief systems that we have elevated to the level of absolute fact.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Subway Partners with Michelle Obama, Sincerely Ignorant Respond with Hate

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."--Martin Luther King Jr.

Conservatives have gone rabid yet again and focused their animus on Michelle Obama. So what has them foaming at the mouth this time?

Last week, the Subway Restaurant chain announced on its Facebook page that it was joining First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, and teaming up with the Partnership for a Healthier America. Nothing shocking in this partnership; Subway has offered healthy alternatives to fries and burgers for years. 

We've been bemoaning the fattening of America for at least the last decade, with a particular focus on the increasing obesity of America's children and adolescents. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. So the addition of Subway's support to an initiative to provide information about eating healthy and to encourage all of us to make healthier food choices seems like a great idea unless you're a mad dog conservative. They're out in full force on Subway's Facebook page, decrying Subway's joining the First Lady's campaign against childhood obesity and vowing to take their business elsewhere. 

It's their right to do so, and I'd be the last person to insist that anyone is obligated to support any business. What I have a problem with is their racist insults directed at the First Lady and the President. The comments comparing Mrs. Obama to cows and apes, the comments denigrating her intelligence, the comments calling her a traitor to her country. Then there's Regine Wilson who calls the First Lady "ghetto trash," and Judy Stewart who can't seem to recall how to spell the First Lady's given name and calls her "Mooshell." (public comments, no expectation of privacy, ladies). Of course, Regine and Judy aren't the only ones using disparaging terms to refer to Mrs. Obama. They are joined by a chorus of the radically hateful. Hate feeds off hate.

I can only assume that the loony bin conservatives who are having conniption fits at the idea of the First Lady advocating for a healthier America felt that the Subway Facebook was too limited a forum, so they created their own page: "I Reject Michelle Obama and Subway." Read at your own risk; it's vile, contemptible, racist, and filled with stupidity.

What truly disgusts and offends me is that these lunatic, ignorant fools who are too worthless to even shine her shoes don't give a damn that they are not only insulting the First Lady but every African-American in this country. I have heard this type of crap my entire life. I'm long past childhood and I'm immune to words of ignorance causing me personal hurt any more, but it still pisses me off that black children in this country are regularly exposed to this type of sh*t. 

I grew up in an era where racial epithets and denigration of black people was common. Those who dared object risked being taught a lesson, from losing a job, to being dragged out of your house and beaten, to being killed. I learned as a child to keep my mouth shut and my eyes down because even a glance at a white person could be interpreted as being insolent.  

I had hoped that this country, my country, was beyond overt racism, but since Obama's election the ignorant have risen and feel free to to insult both the President and the First Lady with the most vile of racial insults and it's as if we have stepped back into an era that should have long been dead and buried. I have no patience for such people and quite frankly they're not worthy to shine my shoes either.

I vent here, using my words as a weapon, so that I can resist the impulse to slap the first white person that pisses me off on any given day with nonsensical talk of how they are victims of reverse racism and how President Obama has divided this country when it comes to race. I try to keep my anger and disgust down to a simmer rather than letting it come to a full, rolling boil. I work hard to ensure that my Aunt Dorothy's prediction fails to come true and my head doesn't explode one day because I think too much.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

About Drone Attacks, Politics, and Joshua Black

Maybe it's something in the water down in Florida. On Monday, while most of us were celebrating the Dr. King holiday, Joshua Black, a candidate for a seat in the Florida House (District 68) tweeted that President Obama should be hanged for treason, "I'm past impeachment. It's time to arrest and hang him high."

Black subsequently tweeted denials that he called for hanging the President, insisting that he merely agreed with a tweet posted by someone else. Of course the tweet with which he agreed advocated arresting and hanging the President. He also addressed how he has been misunderstood on his Facebook page.

Mr. Black is a 31-year-old African-American. On his Twitter account he has reacted with indignation to some suggestions that the tweet in controversy is racist. Upon giving it some thought, I am willing to concede that Mr. Black's attack on President Obama, his agreement with the tweet calling for the arrest and hanging of the President, may not be based on racial animosity. Mr. Black isn't a racist; he's just an idiot.

He appears desperate to curry favor from the Republican party in the belief that he will be the Republican nominee for a seat in the Florida House for District 68. His efforts aren't working. Chris Latvala, a Republican candidate for House District 67, tweeted a response: "You aren't seriously calling for the killing of Obama are you? I know you are crazy but good heavens. U R an embarrassment." On his Facebook page, Black alleges that Florida's governor has contacted him and asked him to withdraw from the race. Black refused, "Having done nothing illegal, I will not be withdrawing from this race. If I lose, I lose, but I will not cower away." 

What elicited Black's agreement with the tweet that President Obama should be hanged? According to Black, the President is guilty of treason, a modern incarnation of Benedict Arnold (Contrary to Black's belief, Arnold was not executed; he died at the age of 60 in his own bed.) He is emphatic that the President should have a trial first, then we should hang him. Black points specifically at two drone attacks in which two American citizens, a father and son were killed, the son was 16-years-old. A sad and nasty affair, in which the father, Anwar al-Awlaki, had taken his son with him to Yemen where the father worked with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Two weeks after the father was killed in a targeted drone strike, his son was also a victim of a drone strike. The administration has stated that the son was not a target and was an unintended victim of the second attack. 

Black seems particularly concerned about what he views as Obama's criminal attacks on American citizens, and calls on Jesus as justification for killing Obama for the crime of treason. There would be a bit of dark humor in the rantings of a novice who has never before held a public office if it weren't for the Tea Party members who are gleefully celebrating Black's attack on the President, offering praise for the black man speaking out against the President and in doing so, somehow prohibiting any characterization of the rabid right's ongoing attack against the president as racist. 

I find it fascinating how there is so much outrage at the use of drones by this administration and how little outrage has been expressed in the past when the U.S. has engaged in creative methods of killing that have resulted in substantial deaths of men, women, and children. 

I don't like war, whether declared by Congress or entered into based on a lie at worst or at best, massive misinformation about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction or some other imagined threat.  People die in wars because everyone involved uses weapons to kill each other. War is about killing. Amazing how outraged people who had no problems with previous administrations killing people, including civilians, are willing to go so far as to call for the hanging of the president of the United States for alleged war crimes. Of course he is the first black president. But wait, I'm just imagining that his race has anything to do with it. 

After all, there has never been another U.S. president who ordered the military to take military action against our perceived enemy. Oops, I'm wrong. There was Truman and I'm certain that Obama's critics would also want Truman lynched. Under Truman's orders, on August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. Three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki. This was the big bang but the U.S. had been bombing cities in Japan for some time wiping out cities of 100,000 with conventional bombs. Rumor has it that subsequent Presidents ordered military actions that killed civilians in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. Then there were the wars prior to WWII.

War is a nasty, evil thing and by its very definition it results in deaths, hundreds of thousands of deaths. Obama didn't start this trend and he won't be the last president to order strikes that result in the deaths of civilians, the young and the old, and even American citizens who give aid to countries that are waging terrorists attacks against the U.S.

I don't like the U.S. use of military might and I believe that we have failed to devote sufficient effort to using diplomatic channels to resolve differences among nations. I support a stronger UN with the authority to resolve disputes among disagreeing countries. 

I reiterate: I don't like war. But what I like even less are hypocrites who look for any excuse to declare that President Obama is evil personified, the anti-Christ president, all under the pretext of being appalled at his exercise of the same powers as every commander-in-chief that has preceded him. Such hypocrites aren't anti-war; they're anti-Obama. They are so shallow that they cannot bring themselves to confront their own animus toward his position as President of the United States. They get hyperactive about his use of military force as if he invented the concept. Frankly, I have more respect for the blatant racists who don't hide their beliefs. At least they're honest and I know not to waste my time on attempting to communicate with them.

As for Joshua Black, he's seeking his 15 minutes of fame. Let's hope that his moment in the spotlight is over.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Is Net Neutrality and Why Should You Care?

On Tuesday, January 14, 2013 the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit said, "No, no, no," to the FCC's Net neutrality rules passed in late 2010. The story managed to give Gov. Christy and his bridge a bit of a nudge out of the limelight but I found most of the coverage to be inadequate at clearly defining the issues and what is at stake. 

First, it's important to know who the players are. There are (1) Internet broadband providers such as Verizon and (2) content providers such as Netflix and Facebook, and (3) consumers (those of us who use the Internet). The court's decision impacts content providers directly, not consumers, but the impact of the court's ruling is likely to ultimately affect consumers.

Second, it's useful to understand that prior to this federal appeals court decision, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Net neutrality rules required Internet service providers [aka broadband providers] to provide consumers with equal access to all lawful content without restrictions or tiered charges, treating all web traffic equally.

Verizon Communications, Inc., a broadband provider challenged the FCC's rules asserting that the FCC had no authority to impose anti-discrimination rules  (Net neutrality rules) on broadband providers. This is a victory for Verizon and other broadband providers. (Think of who you purchase Internet service from like Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, AT&T etc., these are all Internet service providers/ broadband providers).

Internet content providers are all of the websites that we visit or join like Netflix, Facebook, Blogger, Word Press, state, federal, and local government sites, etc. This ruling has the potential to interfere with the ability of content providers to provide their content at higher speeds unless they pay a higher cost for access to the Net to the broadband providers.

The FCC continues to have authority to regulate broadband access which means that if can regulate content providers but under this ruling, the FCC cannot regulate broadband providers. The concern is that the broadband providers, which are much larger than content providers, will levy higher costs on the content providers for providing higher speed Internet connections. 

Increases in costs for higher speed Internet connections would likely put some content providers out of business, and prevent smaller content providers from ever setting up their Internet site. Content providers who can pay increased fees for higher connection speeds will have an unfair advantage over sites with slower connection speeds and Net neutrality will be a thing of the past.

The court's decision is unlikely to result in any costs for use to be passed along to the consumer as the FCC continues, under this ruling, to have authority to regulate broadband access. However, this ruling, if it stands on appeal, will impact consumer access to a broad variety of content providers and have a chilling effect on the development of new content on the Internet.

This is purely speculation on my part, but I do think that if this decision survives appeal, it's reasonable to believe that content providers will be chomping at the bit to get the FCC to lessen its control of content providers and allow them to pass on some of their increased cost for high speed access to consumers.

In addition, the only guarantee that we have that Internet broadband providers will provide equal access to all consumers is their pledge to do so. The lawyers for the broadband providers insist that nothing will change for consumers and we will continue to be able to roam merrily about the Internet. However, consumer advocacy groups fear that the broadband providers will begin charging content providers for higher Internet speeds, causing some sites to shut down and others to curtail their offerings or restrict access to some areas of their sites to fee paying consumers. In other words, no one is clear as to exactly what repercussions there will be as a result of this ruling.

The President sums up the administration's position in support of continued Net neutrality. According to the administration, "The President remains committed to an open Internet, where consumers are free to choose the websites they want to visit and the online services they want to use, and where online innovators are allowed to compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their products."

The simplest solution would be for Congress to redefine the FCC's authority to make it clear that it includes setting rules that govern the broadband providers, a step which the Democrats have offered to take. However, the Republicans are advocating a hands off position, agreeing with the Internet providers that the FCC rules "inhibit investments and are not necessary to ensure unrestricted access to Internet content."

This is the short version of a somewhat complex decision. There's a decent article on the federal court's decision here.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbus Circuit is also available online.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Yes, Mr. Robertson, There Are Consequences for Hate Speech

Let's be clear about the facts. Phil Robertson, the bearded patriarch of Duck Dynasty fame did not simply declare homosexuality to be a sin or against the Bible's teachings. Robertson condemned homosexuality as a perversion, a step on the slippery slope to bestiality. Robertson expressed a hatred and condemnation for gay people in vile and filthy language that reflects the garbage that rumbles around in his head.

Two examples from his GQ interview:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man’s anus," Robertson told GQ. "That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine," he later added. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

The A&E network has responded to Robertson's declarations by suspending him from his television show on that network, Duck Dynasty. Conservatives and some Christian groups are crying foul and insisting that Robertson's first amendment rights have been violated.

Freedom of speech and the first amendment have nothing to do with Robertson's suspension. The 1st amendment prohibits the government from restricting speech (note, even that prohibition isn't absolute, there are types of speech that can be regulated by the government). The first amendment protects us from laws being made that restrict freedom of the press, of religion, and of speech. However, it doesn't protect us from all the consequences of making ignorant and bigoted commentary. The government didn't do anything to Robertson; his employer did.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. --U.S. Constitution
The A&E network isn't the government nor an agency of the government, and like any employer, unless there is an employment contract to the contrary, can suspend or fire an employee at will. The big exception is that an employer can't fire someone for discriminatory reasons if it can be shown that the individual belongs to a protected class as defined by law and the rational for the dismissal is directly linked to the person's status as a member of a protected class.

Bigots aren't a protected class and A&E consider Robertson to be bad for business. There are consequences for expressing your views. He can continue to express them but I'm not losing a bit of sleep because A&E said, "Not on this network!"

Of course, there are those who declare suspending Robertson is another prong in the liberal anti-Christian movement. After all, the man was quoting the Bible and he has a right to do so.

Except, Robertson isn't quoting the Bible. There are only seven references in the Bible that appear to be about homosexuality and Robertson quoted none of them. Just making up crap and attributing it to the Bible doesn't make it about Christianity. Robertson did not quote the Bible, he interpreted the Bible according to his understanding and beliefs.

I have a Bible quote for Robertson, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1 (KJV)

Here's a more conservative view of the Bible's statements on homosexuality; still only seven references and nothing even remotely echoing Robertson's alleged Bible quoting tirade.

We live in a country of at-will employment laws. Employers can fire employees for no reason, for cause, for anything that is not prohibited discrimination under the law. Robertson stuck his foot in it.

By the way, Robertson's anti-gay bigotry has caught so much attention that his comments on race have been ignored. Please note, that according to GQ, Robertson volunteered much of the controversial information in the interview. He wasn't asked about his views on homosexuality or race.
Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Maybe during his suspension, Robertson will have time to visit some of those happy black people with whom he worked, and sing a few songs. I'm certain they're also longing for the good old days, pre-entitlement and pre-welfare.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Santa Claus Is a Dead Ringer for Barry White

My Santa
Okay folks, let's reconnect with reality. I've been reading some odd comments on Facebook regarding Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly's assertion that Santa Claus and Jesus are white and everybody knows it. 
For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.--Megyn Kelly
Kelly was responding to an article by Aisha Harris, a black writer, who proposes that in an America that is culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse, perhaps it is time that Santa's image as an old white guy gets a makeover. 

Most of you appear to think Megyn Kelly is a flake, but I've read these lengthy discussions in which people dismiss Kelly as a nitwit but engage in serious debate that Santa is white or that there's no reason to mess with Santa's traditional appearance (white, fat, bearded guy).  

Kelly is a twit, but her assertion of the whiteness of a fantasy figure does reflect white privilege at its overblown best, as do some of the comments that I've read on Facebook. As Santa is not real, he can be any color that we like, including purple with green polka dots and red stripes. So why should a little black child have to imagine that Santa Claus is white? I have more than one black Santa in my house. My favorite does a sassy dance to "Jingle Bell Rock." Declaring that Santa is white is just as nonsensical as declaring that the Easter Bunny is a white rabbit and everyone knows it. 

We can adapt folklore and legend to reflect our own cultural identity. One of the biggest misunderstandings that I frequently encounter when it comes to white people interacting with black people is a failure by so many whites to step into the shoes of being black in a culture which has consistently and traditionally devalued blackness. 

Imagine living in a country in which you see nothing that reflects your image. When I was a child, I remember very clearly the first time I saw a black doll in a store, a pretty black doll with brown skin and brown eyes and curly hair. I also remember having to reach adulthood before black dolls with kinky hair like mine became available. Our mother brought black dolls for me and my sister after we first spotted them in the store and I was in love with that bundle of plastic parts because she looked like me.

Oh Megyn look, I have a black angel!!

Megyn Kelly's assertion was thoughtless and arrogant. However, I would never waste my time trying to explain that to her because she wouldn't get it and I would only end up frustrating myself. I am sharing this with you dear readers because I believe that some of you, a lot of you, will listen to what I am saying and truly hear me. That's all that I ask. Step out of your comfort zone and try to understand why I've taken the time to write about a fantasy man who exists only in the imaginations of children. 

I also noticed that quite a few people seemed a bit confused as to the origins of Santa so I've provided a bit of clarity on that topic.

1. Santa Claus is not real (if you're under the age of 10, I'm sorry.)

2. Santa is a fantasy figure cobbled together out of Nordic, Scandinavian, Turkish, Greek, and Germanic (includes English and Old English) cultures. The Catholic church does not recognize Santa Claus as a saint. There was a 4th century Christian Bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra who contributed to the concept of Santa Claus, but he is not Santa Claus.

3. In addition to St. Nicholas, Santa Claus is a mixture of the Norse God Odin, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, and Christian beliefs in the Christ Child. The essential quality of the benevolent figure was as a gift-giver to children.

4. The image of Santa as the jolly guy in red with reindeer and a house at the North Pole emerged in the 19th century based on the poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (aka The Night before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore. Cartoonist Thomas Nast solidified Moore's description of Santa in an illustration for Harper's Weekly in 1863. Note, this image of a large white man with a beard and a bunch of elves is an American concept fabricated from old legends by Clement in his poem and Nast in his drawings. 

5. I repeat, Santa is not real. The fantasy figure reflects American and European cultural norms, he is therefore depicted as white. The growth of media has made the image available worldwide but do not arrogantly presume that Santa Claus is eagerly awaited by children all around the world. Different cultures have different images of the gift giver. American traditions are not the traditions of the world. Santa does not fly around the world on Christmas Eve.

If you want more information on the origins of Santa Claus, follow this link to an informative history.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

President Obama and What to Do About Syria

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. 

On August 21, a gas attack in Syria leaves 1400 people dead.The presumption is that the Syrian government, under President Al-Assad, used Sarin gas against its own people and a soon to be released UN report is expected to confirm the use of chemical weapons. President Obama announces that the U.S. is prepared to take military action to send a clear message to Syria that it will not be allowed to violate the international chemical weapons ban without there being consequences. Liberals and conservatives find common let's-trash-the-President ground, with one group declaring Obama a warmonger and the other decrying his alleged inexperience and large ego. However, a handful of Republicans support getting tough with Syria. Then the administration suggests the possibility of reconsidering taking military action if Syria will hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons. Putin volunteers to help broker this deal with his Syrian friends. 

Some liberals declare Obama to be "lucky" to be "rescued" by Putin, but still insist that he has betrayed us and declare that the U.S. lacks moral superiority to chastise Syria because of our own past and present transgressions. Most of Congress says they will not authorize Obama to take military action, totally ignoring that precedent supports the President making a decision to use military force against Syria as long as it is not a pursuit of war but a police action against a perceived threat to the safety of the U.S. However, the small GOP crew that wants to get tough with Syria doesn't like the idea of a diplomatic solution and call Obama weak for even considering it. 

To drop bombs or not to drop bombs, that is the question. Whether it's nobler to pursue a diplomatic solution or to blow Syria up? As of this Saturday, September 14, an agreement has been reached under which Syria will be expected to put its stockpile of chemical weapons under international control before they ultimately are destroyed. Everyone is happy! Well not quite, it seems that the folks who wanted the President to take military action against Syria are not pleased with the agreement because it does not include a provision that the U.S. gets to use military force against Syria if Syria reneges on the agreement. 

The President has indicated the U.S. will support the UN Security Council resolution, (one of the next steps in the process) which doesn't threaten Assad with the use of force if his government fails to comply. Senators McCain and Graham have labeled acquiescence to the U.N. resolution as an act of "provocative weakness." They insist that the President looks weak in the eyes of the world for not insisting that it's our party and we'll bomb Syria if we want to. A segment of the liberal contingency continues to bemoan Obama's betrayal and insist that he's morphed into a warmonger. There are also those who insist that the U.S. just needs to stay out of all affairs in the Middle East or anywhere outside of the U.S., which is ironic given the insistence of a majority of Americans that ours is a nation founded on Christian principles. Evidently, those Christian principles exclude any responsibility for being your brother's keeper unless your brother lives within the U.S. The non-believers aren't concerned with biblical admonishments but are focused on denying that the President had any input in maneuvering this situation to obtain the ultimate goal of Syria agreeing to get rid of its chemical weapon stockpile; after all, he's just a mindless warmonger.

It's true that the agreement does not address the ongoing civil war in Syria and the death toll from that war continues to rise. It's not a perfect agreement but it does take chemical weapons out of the equation and demonstrates that there can be effective use of diplomatic means to curtail the use of some of the weapons of war. In addition, an agreement by Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention is making its way through the legal offices of the UN.

There are some of us, renegade liberals, who believe that we're moving in the right direction, investing our efforts in finding diplomatic resolutions to conflict. We view the careful, negotiations and policies, including a threat to use force if necessary, as being part of a well thought out strategic plan by the administration to achieve the end result that is now on the table--Syria's dismantling of its chemical weapons program. We see President Obama as having skillfully navigated through the coral reefs and made it to a safe port for a brief respite before continuing on in the pursuit of the ever elusive peace, unknown to us in the history of humankind.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."--Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC) 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Pastime of Slut Shaming: Targeting Miley Cyrus

Some of my female friends, whom I admire and respect and like a whole lot, continue to express dismay over Miley Cyrus' sexually provocative performance at the VMAs. Across the Internet, some are labeling the performance as slutty, disgusting, and degrading to women. Funny thing is that I don't feel at all degraded as a woman due to Cyrus' romp on stage with Teddy Bears and Robin Thicke. 

I'm too old to appreciate Miley Cyrus' music but her performance style doesn't offend me any more than Madonna did in her hey day. Recall that video where she crawled across the floor and lapped milk out of a bowl? 

While I greatly appreciate and continue to like my female friends, I have to pose the following questions. Why is it that women are the first ones to turn on other women who are overtly sexual in their actions or appearance? We label these women as sluts, nasty, trashy, just doesn't sound very sisterly to me. What's with this judgment that a woman who expresses her sexuality while performing on stage is behaving in a shameful way and any decent female should be ashamed of her and for her? 

Michael Jackson grabbed his crotch and hoisted his junk in every performance. Even in the staid 1950s, Elvis gyrated his hips in a distinctly sexual manner, accompanied by pelvic thrusts. I can't recall a single male performer whose overtly sexual performance has ever elicited the same type of need to express revulsion and disgust as Miley Cyrus has garnered for shaking her butt, thrusting her pelvis forward, and sometimes pointing at her crotch.

Why are we still defining women in terms of meeting some 1950s standard of ladylike behavior? 

The Syrian government appears to have used chemical weapons against its own people but the big topic in the U.S. is that Miley Cyrus was twerking on television! Oh the horror! She pointed at her crouch and did a slow grind a few times with Robin Thicke. Notice how there haven't been any headlines labeling Robin Thicke as a slut, nasty, disgusting, or an embarrassment to his gender? Miley wasn't on that stage alone.

Perhaps we need to step back and really think as to what the message is that we wish to convey. Do we really want to adhere to some arbitrary and outdated standard that divides women into good girls and sluts? All the 20-year old Miley Cyrus did was express herself as a sexual being. She didn't advocate for violence. She wasn't an object; she was in control and she chose how to express herself. That's a far cry from exploitation in my book. Just something to think about.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

All the Stupid People, Where Do They All Come From?

This post is not addressed to my regular readers. I know that you know this information. However, if you choose to do so, this is for your use. Please feel free to send it to anyone that you feel is talking nonsense about Obamacare. You may share it in part or as a whole. It probably won't do any good but it made me feel better to write and share this post. At least my head won't explode.

Just when I'm in a positive frame of mind, I go and read something so stupid (post from August 21 re: Affordable Health Care Act) it makes my head want to explode. There are a lot of sites that advise people not to buy health insurance in compliance with the Affordable Health Care Act. However, that's not what has my head expanding. It's the number of brainless nitwits who assert that noncompliance will result in not just fines but imprisonment. 

There is no imprisonment for not buying health insurance. Don't believe every stupid bit of information that you read on the Internet.

There are fines for not having health insurance. In Obamacare's first year (2014), the fine is $95 per adult or one percent of income, whichever is highest. The penalty is half the adult amount for children under 18. The penalty goes up every year, landing at $695 or 2.5 percent of household income in 2016.

If you own a car, states require you to buy at minimum, liability insurance. This is not to protect you but to protect your fellow drivers from being  hit by uninsured drivers and having to either pay out of pocket or file a claim with their insurance and risk an increase in their rates. 

When you get sick, (and unless you die young from an accident, you will get sick at some point in your life, and traipse off to the emergency room with no insurance) the rest of us pay for your health care. Those ridiculous overcharges at hospitals are to create sufficient funds to cover treating the uninsured.

So while you defiantly refuse to spend $100 per month on health insurance (if you're in good health with no pre-existing conditions your insurance costs will be low), when you are in an accident or become seriously ill and take yourself to the emergency room and are hospitalized, who do you think pays for your medical care? You have no insurance. The hospital can try to collect, but if you have no assets worth a crap, then there is nothing for the hospital to collect from you. And in spite of the nonsense I've read recently, there is no such thing as a debtor prison in the United States. Your property, if you have any, may be forfeited but no one goes to prison because he or she cannot pay their debts. 

Please stop spreading misinformation and declaring that anyone is going to prison because he or she does not purchase health insurance. If you'd rather pay a fine, so be it.

As for the chicken little cries that the AHCA equals Socialism, I suggest you start with the basics and check out Wikipedia's entry on Socialism. It's exceptionally simplistic and ultimately inaccurate to characterize Socialism as a redistribution of wealth. However, I don't have the time nor energy to give a fundamental lesson in Socialism.