Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here we are at the threshold.

Hannity's performance here is amusing, if typical. He is completely unprepared for the logical force that is Christopher Hitchens. How he failed to be prepared for this is telling: I'm quite sure that he, like many people today, felt that this argument was one of simple intuition where fact, research, and critical logic really didn't play a role. He feels his acceptance of God's place in the sublime wonder of the world is enough to justify everything else that he believes in - Christian or not, inherited or not. A life unexamined.

More and more this becomes a leitmotif for our world.

As the curator of Altarpiece pointed out in a not-so-recent discussion, "people have come to accept not just political opinions but pre-packaged identities from the two political poles in the US." Add to this the far more sinister idea that many people have come to accept their religious ideas, wholesale, from their parents and then allowed their political ideas to be shaped by that selfsame identity - neither of which is exactly their own.

How many people do I know who support the GOP because they're against abortion and believe, somehow, that the Republicans are, too? I'm related to at least four. I can rattle off many more. But here's the thing: Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 - 36 years ago. Of those 36 years only 13 have been under a democratic president. Additionally, of the 9 current Supreme Court justices, 7 were appointed by Republican presidents - 8 during George H.W. Bush's term in office. The GOP has had plenty of time and political clout on its hands to try and make the changes that its constituency demanded, but, for all its pandering to US Christians, it has done nothing - not even symbolically - to support the right-to-life movement that garners it so many votes each year. Yet, those selfsame people from my sphere continue to cast their votes, hoping. Meanwhile, both parties have supported measures which are clearly anti-children. Under Reagan, in fact, Detroit had an infant mortality rate of 33%, which had nothing at all to do with abortions.

How many people do I know who are Christian and yet have not read the entire Bible? Of the people I know 4 are Jews, 2 are other, and literally everyone else is Christian. Of them all only 2 have read the entire Bible: both of them are preacher's daughters.

None of this is meant as an attack specifically on Christianity or Christians or Americans or Christian Americans. None of the four Jews that I know are particularly devout, either. The atheists and agnostics, seemingly, have taken the easy road out when it comes to their devotion: they need only be true to themselves and the world around them. Yet I find it disturbing that so many people who do subscribe to religion, and who do live in states, care so little about either. Religion, on one hand, legislates their morality and the state takes care of legislating the rest. The span of control that those two bodies represent nearly embodies life here on Earth. To not care about either, to be both apolitical and atheistic (or apathetically theistic) in this world at this juncture amounts to a betrayal of their very lives. And if you don't care about God, don't care about freedom, then how could you possibly care about something like art or the environment?

"But we with holy care wish to foster the holy good of our reality, that is gifted to us for this and perhaps for no other life that is nearer truth."

Hannity wasn't sure even how to walk when he tried to go skating out on the ice with Hitchens. But many today don't have the notion that they need to walk in the first place.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Failed Letter to the Carroll County Times

This wasn't published, so why not publish it here? It's in response to this editorial.

Like Rick Blatchford I was dismayed at the appointment of Timothy Geithner to Secretary of the Treasury, albeit for different reasons. Geithner comes from the selfsame free market school of thought as Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers (his mentor). He worked for the IMF and Kissinger & Associates - names infamous to many third world countries suffering under the burden of Chicago School economics today. In short, Geithner has traditionally been a part of the ultra-rich boys-club problem that he’s now been tasked with solving. His appointment, like Summers appointment under Clinton, has signified to many that Obama’s administration will mirror our last democratic president‘s: Say change with the right hand, keep doing the same old thing with the left. I hope I’m wrong.

However, Geithner’s tax problems are hardly cause to begin questioning the integrity of the system. They’re par for the course. Under the Bush administration Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to sell his holdings in Gilead Sciences, which were valued between $8mn and $39mn. During Rumsfeld’s time, however, the Pentagon purchased $58mn worth of Gilead’s Tamiflu product. There is, too, the matter of Vice President Cheney’s holdings in Halliburton, which were slightly better reported. That company saw a 300% increase in the price of its stocks as the result of the Iraq war, which Cheney was instrumental in engineering. Was media coverage for the problems of these Bush administration officials any more or less than the coverage for Geithner or Daschle’s problems? Not really. It all came up quietly and slipped out the back door quickly on both sides.

The problem here isn’t one of democrats vs. republicans. It’s a problem of the same tired, corrupt choices being flashed before our eyes as if they’re the only ones. Senators Mikulski and Cardin aren’t going to solve these problems, as they’ve proved time and time again from their automated message responses and cookie-cutter lists of issues. Real change will come when equal press time is given to third and fourth party candidates, when real issues are discussed in debates, and when Americans can be prodded to the polls in truly great numbers. When that happens, maybe our political elects will realize that if they don’t listen to us, they’ll be looking for a job next time around, instead of riding the wave to their next million dollar entitlement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Roscoe Bartlett on the Economic Stimulus Package

“Earlier this week, I explained why I oppose the stimulus bill negotiated by Congressional Democratic leaders. I told President Obama that I believe it is selfish to saddle future unborn children with debt to pay for government spending programs that won’t end the current recession."

(As opposed to the $10,000,000,000,000 current debt for which we have . . . wait. What do we have to show for the $10,000,000,000,000 debt besides our current recession, the world's largest military, and an inability to defeat third world countries when we go to war with them?)

"I encourage everyone to visit this website and post your ideas about what government policies can help Americans launch personal and national economic recovery plans. Just saying no to bad ideas won’t help our country or Americans who have lost their jobs. So I encourage people to log on, check out the House Republican plan and provide us feedback and your ideas.”

(You can provide feedback on a total of 5 talking points! Oddly enough "drastically cut military spending, stop funding terrorism in Israel, and nationalize the banking system" aren't on the list.

“The word is getting out that ‘stimulus’ is just a diverting headline for liberal Democrats to expand government spending and control over Americans’ lives and hard-earned money.”

(As opposed to the traditional method of using tax payer's dollars and deficit spending to pay for the expansion of private companies' control over Americans' lives and hard-earned money. It's a subtle difference.)

As you probably know the Senate passed a heavily modified version of the stimulus bill today. Somehow their version of the bill, which cut billions in government spending, ended up costing more than the House's version which didn't ($838bn vs. $819bn). The difference? Tax cuts. If only we had realized before that tax cuts were the solution . . . we could've even sent everyone a check last year!

The next step is for the House and Senate to hash together a common bill to present to the President which, in my mind, means that it now goes to the House to argue for some measure of nationalization, relief for the middle and lower classes, and possibly a "new New Deal." This, in turn, is a reminder for you to write to your Representative and let him/her know exactly how you feel.

Roscoe Bartlett

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