Monday, November 29, 2004

A Leviticus Letter

Wayne Williams, a writer from California, has been circulating a rather trenchant open letter to President Bush. It presents the clearest (and funniest) critique I have seen so far of the use of the Bible to condemn homosexuality.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Purple Nation

I'm finally getting around to uploading this map that I made a couple of days after Kerry decided to abandon us to a highly problematic vote count. What it shows is what Barak Obama said – there is red in the blue states and blue in the red states.

The map is relevant for this country really only as long as we continue with the democracy-distorting electoral college system. A county-by-county map gives a more granular image of how the country's votes were counted. Farther down the same page is a map that gives a visual sense of where all the people live, which is enlightening since there are a lot of relatively sparsely populated, large-sized states that give a skewed vision of where the country is at on the straight red-vs-blue maps, and even on my own map.


I resent this system that rewards me for simply being a white man. I resent that I can't simply feel that I'm successful because of my gifts and talents, that there will always be in the back of my head the nagging feeling that I am where I am because of my skin color and plumbing. What spurred this thought? Reading about all those white guys in all three branches of our government who throw their bloated weight around, making decisions for the all of us, with no care about what they're doing to us. Who carry with them something very dangerous indeed – a sense of entitlement. A sense of entitlement that comes in large part from their lack of melanin and their outie crotches. Don't like affirmative action? Start with that cabal of dunderheaded bullies. Don't like entitlements? Get rid of 'em for rich white men. Maybe then we'll have something to talk about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Calling All Christians

I would like to call upon our country and leaders to embrace a not-so-new morality. One that is based not on hate and fear, but on love and hope.

Let's look at the New Testament: Jesus never raised an army. Satan tried to convince him that he could use his power to simply take over and shape the world as he saw fit. It was during this time that Jesus uttered that famous line, "Get thee behind me, Satan." How did Jesus promulgate his word, utilize his power? He preached. He fed people. He healed people. He forgave people. When the Romans acted against him, he counselled his followers not to strike out, but to act in love.

His disciples did not raise an army to avenge his death. They walked out into the world, defenseless, and talked to people. They got crucified. They got tossed to the lions. They did not raise up an army to smite their enemies – they just kept talking and doing good works.

The New Testament marks a new relationship with God for Christians. It's a different way of walking in the world than before. Before, the Israelites were encouraged to go and slay their enemies. Now, God was asking people to talk to each other, to treat each other with love, to forgive even the most heinous crimes.

I would like to ask those who have chosen the path of Bush this year based on faith, with all that power at his fingertips, what sort of healing has Mr. Bush done? Who has he fed? What forgiveness has he shown? I want people to think seriously about the Christian values he has demonstrated (not Old Testament, but New – remember, Christianity marks a new relationship with God, and a new way to walk in the world). And then ask this country's leadership to truly practice what they preach.

People get frustrated when asked, "What would Jesus do?" But for Christians, this is the most valid question there is. A Christian's duty is to strive toward perfection, and this means emulating Christ. So please do not dismiss this question. Give it deep, serious thought, and act accordingly. And then ask your leaders to do the same.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

A Snark on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

One of the benefits listed by the just-released Arctic Climate Impact Assessment is that "Reduced sea ice is likely to allow increased offshore extraction of oil and gas." A bit like a condemned man being given a bit more rope with which to be hung, isn't it?

For the most part, the report is extremely gloomy about prospects for the Arctic Circle, postulating the possible extinction of polar bears as well as a sharp rise in sea levels due to the melt-off of Greenland's ice sheet. Some of the scientists involved charged that the release of the publication was delayed by the US Government so as not to effect the recent elections.

Which brings me to another point. Shouldn't elections be based on the fullest amount of information possible? Apparently those who currently occupy the White House feel that the suppression of inconvenient facts should trump the democratic process. This report is not an isolated case, and the mainstream media, charged with helping to maintain our democracy by ensuring that people can make choices with as much information as possible, has repeatedly abdicated its role.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Bush's Nonexistent Economic Recovery

Paul Krugman writes today in The New York Times: "Bush campaign ads boast that 1.5 million jobs were added in the last 10 months, as if that were a remarkable achievement. It isn't. During the Clinton years, the economy added 236,000 jobs in an average month. Those 1.5 million jobs were barely enough to keep up with a growing working-age population." This says a great deal about how our economy is doing - times are not getting any easier for working folks (and especially for folks who are trying to find work. So much for the miracle-generating powers of Bush's tax breaks (you know, the ones that have made rich folks richer and put us as a nation trillions of dollars in debt). This is just one more example of why we should look skeptically at every single word that comes out of the Bush administration's collective mouth.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Let's Get Rid of John Ashcroft

The Center for American Progress has posted A Declaration Calling for the Resignation or Removal of John Ashcroft. I would encourage everyone to read over this declaration and, if they see fit (I did), to sign the petition that goes along with it. John Ashcroft is, as Paul Krugman of The New York Times put it in at least two of his columns, the worst Attorney General in U.S. history. His affronts to our democracy are legion, and his performance as our country's top law enforcement officer are abysmal.

There are currently questions swirling around the fact that although he will blast the trumpets whenever a person of color or Muslim is arrested on the flimsiest of charges, he has made not one public peep about the arrest in December 2003 and subsequent guilty plea of William Krar, a white supremacist who was caught with automatic weapons, pipe bombs, a stash of cyanide gas large enough to kill everyone in a 30,000 square foot building, and false UN credentials and Defense Intelligence Agency IDs. This man would have been able to carry out the most devastating attack on U.S. soil since 9/11/2001, and our attorney general (along with the vsat majority of our country's media) has completely swept it under the rug. Might this be because Mr. Ashcroft has a history of being supportive of white supremacist groups?

Keep in mind that John Ashcroft was appointed by a president who was illegitimately placed into power by a partisan Supreme Court. Keep in mind also that the people of Missouri so reviled John Ashcroft that he lost his race for U.S. Senate to a dead man.

So let's put John Ashcroft where he'll do us the most good – as far away from government as possible.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Can We Please Hear Some Truth about Reagan?

Let me not be charitable towards Ronald Reagan. So many are doing this for him now, and so undeservedly. Yes, it is fine to mourn the passing of another consciousness, though in this case much of that was gone or at least disastrously altered. But to engage in the wholly uncritical historical revisionism that has been going on is wholly repugnant. Even so-called liberal commentators seem to forget that this was a man that stood against everything they themselves stand for and, in the process, against human decency.

For those who would point out that Reagan started out his political career as a labor leader, let us examine his most important actions within the Screen Actors Guild, of which he was indeed president. His most important activity within SAG was to denounce fellow union members and others in the film industry as Communists during the McCarthy era, destroying careers and lives in the name of a hysterical political witch hunt that even conservatives now invoke as a black spot on our history.

This is the man who, as governor of California (beware Californians becoming Presidents), called out a violent National Guard against free speech protestors. This was the man who vetoed a state bill to allow farmworkers to have the simple right of collective bargaining.

This was the man whose people, in order to put him over the top in a tight race for the presidency, arranged for Iran to prolong the holding of US hostages until after the elections so as to further damage his opponent, Jimmy Carter. It is no coincidence that the hostages finally were released on the day of Reagan's inauguration.

Let us not forget, in this time of war on Iraq, that Reagan's administration actively supported the regime of Saddam Hussein, selling him weapons, including the chemical variety. Many of the weapons used against US troops in 1991 and even today had and have US serial numbers on them. The chemical weapons that we helped provide were not only used against Iranian troops during the Iran-Iraq War, in clear contravention of international treaties. They were also used against Kurds during the infamous episode that has been hauled out repeatedly in order to vilify Saddam and justify our waging war on the Iraqi people.

Reagan is most celebrated by his proponents for his supposed victory against Communism and the fall of the Soviet empire. Oh, how we forget about Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of the Soviet bloc! It was the people themselves, without our help, that made change in the Soviet bloc. Let us not forget how surprised our own government, including the CIA (whose track record suggests the "I" should simply be dropped from its name), was when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union shortly thereafter.

Yes, Reagan did actively fight communism, or what he perceived to be communism. But where did this take place?

In the case of Nicaragua, Reagan's administration violated the very laws of Congress in order to support the Contras, a band of murderous thugs who worked to bring down a democratically elected government. Reagan's "freedom fighters" rarely engaged Nicaragua's military, preferring instead to target civilians in their villages, destroying fields and hospitals and killing hundreds in the process. This strategy was undertaken not only with the blessings of Reagan's administration cronies, but at their urging. And how did we fund the Contras? Ah, yes — with drug money, and arms sales to Iran.

In the name of quashing the communist threat in the rest of Central America, Reagan propped up regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Hundreds of thousands of people died in these tiny countries at the hands of US-trained death squads.

Reagan even conducted an out-and-out invasion of a country in order to supplant a democratically-elected government. As if Grenada would have ever posed a "threat" to the US. And as if it even wished to. Basically, in this case people were killed for a publicity moment, to show that we were big and tough and nobody should mess with us. Especially if they were from small, poor, defenseless countries.

While he didn't seem to like democratically elected regimes, Reagan's record elsewhere suggests he never met a righ-wing dictator he didn't like. From Marcos to Suharto to Pinochet, he and his administration made sure that these blights upon humanity had the backing of the United States of America.

His love of dictatorships extended to the race dictatorship, otherwise known as apartheid, of South Africa. Reagan was not only vocal in his support for the apartheid regime, he actually vetoed a bill to place sanctions upon South Africa. Much to The Great Vetoer's chagrin, and our relief, his veto in this case was overridden. And let us remember he labeled Nelson Mandela — yes, the Nelson Mandela — a notorious terrorist, along with the ANC, which now rules South Africa. Reagan's policies served to lengthen the time apartheid held sway, and he himself is therefore responsible for the prolongation of death and suffering in that country.

Not that Reagan wasn't active on the home front. Of course he was. Why, under Reagan the homeless population in this country rose from relative negligibility to two million. How's that for making an impression? Reagan also has the distinction of being the president under who the US for the first time became a debtor nation. The massive amounts he spent on weapons, including the nuclear kind, surely aided in that. How ironic it is that vocally "small-government" Republican administrations these past decades have been the ones who have been the most profligate in their spending! Reagan is at the root of this pattern.

This is also the president who took the unprecedented action of firing all of this country's air traffic controllers who had gone on strike. This was not only a blow to the right of working people in the US to organize, but also left our skies much more dangerous by bringing in, en masse, a whole cadre of barely-trained controllers to manage the air lanes.

This is the man who consistently attacked civil rights, and then affirmative action, from the time he was president of SAG to the time he was president of the USA. He even began his 1980 presidential campaign in the infamous Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights activists ahd been murdered in the 1960s, without so much as acknowledging the incident.

So as people remember Ronald Reagan, we should not only remember the cheerful face, but remember that this face masked a combination of bullheaded ignorance and outright malevolence. Let's remember that this is the man who nearly brought us to the brink of nuclear annihilation with his funny little aside that he had outlawed the Soviet Union and bombing would commence in five minutes. His personal charm masked a hateful boorishness that is reenacted now, more baldfacedly, by George W. Bush.

Ronald Reagan, go away and leave us in peace. And take George with you.