Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AZ Republican Rep Calls Obama "Enemy of Humanity"

From Salon's War Room today:

Republican congressman: Obama "enemy of humanity"
"Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has always been a little skeptical of President Obama. Skeptical enough, in fact, that he flirted with the Birther movement for a while, and even considered filing a lawsuit before the election in order to seek proof that the then-senator was eligible, under the Constitution's guidelines, to be president. He's moved past that -- mostly -- but he hasn't exactly embraced Obama, either.

"This past weekend, Franks spoke at the How to Take Back America Conference, an event co-chaired by Phyllis Schlafly and Janet Porter, a World Net Daily columnist who's apparently yet to meet a conspiracy theory about Obama that was too extreme for her taste. (You're probably going to Hell if you voted for him, by the way. But since he may be a Soviet mole, you probably deserve that eternal damnation.)

"So Franks had to work hard in order to live up to his host's example. But he managed to get there, saying:

Obama's first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers' money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries .... [T]here's almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that. We shouldn't be shocked that he does all these other insane things. A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity.

See the video via Right Wing Watch."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Uninsured Texas Fill Free Houston Health Clinic

This is evil funny.

Texas is probably the reddest state in the Union, and lookee here:

"One out of every three adults in Harris County is now uninsured and Texas ranks the worst among the 50 states in healthcare coverage, according to the U.S. Census. The National Association of Free Clinics decided it was time to hold a massive free clinic at Houston's Reliant Center."
Good thing it wasn't "socialized medicine."

There they were, all lined up like villagers come to Port au Prince.

It's a live, 3-D, walking-around prognostication, a glimpse of the future in the here-and-now if the GOP has its way on health care. You don't think Texas' GOP Senators support a public option, do you? Oh puhleeze. They rather see you die before the vote for that. Their GOP insurance friends aren't fat enough, rich enough, or mean enough quite yet.

But still the Texas lame, halt, and blind vote GOP.

Oh how I wish Molly Ivins were here to comment. She'd probably remind us of St. Barbara Bush's compassionate observation upon seeing the sodden, crisis-pummeled Katrina victims housed at the Houston Astrodome (September 5, 2005):
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
Man, that's some kind of hospitality. Thank you, Senator Cornyn! Thank you, Senator Hutchinson!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"I don't need you to tell me that I'm amazing!"

This is Brava. This is her history. Her story is triumph over every adversity, with a loving heart.

A Perfect Storm, Part 3: The Killings Begin, or, Hamlet Redux

Buried in the back pages of The Washington Post, this bit of trivia:

Census Worker Found Hanged

A part-time Census Bureau field worker was found hanged in Kentucky Sept. 12 with the word "fed" scrawled across his chest, according to a law enforcement source. Bill Sparkman, 51, who was white, was found at the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky, the Associated Press first reported Wednesday night.

. . . The FBI is assisting state and local police with their investigation, the law enforcement source told The Post's Spencer S. Hsu. The source was unsure of the cause of death.

It is a federal crime to attack a federal worker during or because of his federal job.

"It’s a tragedy. Our hearts and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this worker," Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said Thursday morning. He has spoken frequently about the denigration of federal employees.

"I’m going to be closely following this law enforcement action. If this is an attack on a federal employee, I can assure you that no resources will be spared to find the perpetrators," Berry said. "We cannot tolerate essentially domestic terrorism, if that is what this is. But until we understand the law enforcement investigation, we don’t know."

Threats are more common than actual attacks on federal employees, Berry said. He noted that people regularly threaten federal judges and their families, IRS agents and federal law enforcement officers. . . . more

So Hsu can't figure out the cause of death and Berry isn't sure if it really is domestic terrorism.

Well, I'm guessing he died of strangulation from hanging, and that the word "fed" scrawled on his chest wasn't written by a fan.

Hanging is a message with a deep history in the US. It isn't just the mode of choice of frontier "justice." It's also the weapon of racist vigilantes. I wouldn't discard these contexts if I were investigating this murder. After all, there's no shortage of guns in rural Kentucky. Or knives. Or fists and boots.

Even though Sparkman is white, the choice of hanging is a potent message that we ignore at our peril. Translated, it says "Domestic terrorists are watching you, too." No antiseptic can sanitize rural, backwoods hanging of the stink of the Ku Klux Klan. No vehicle that can transplant hanging from its solidly Right-wing garden of horrors to something Left or Center.

I said in the title of this post, "the killings begin." Actually, they began a ta few months ago with the racist slaughter of Stephen T. Johns at the Holocaust Museum and the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita.

And they are deliberately being inspired by the likes of Glenn Beck, Michele Malkin, The Freepers, Michael Savage, and their cleaned-up, prettied-up counterparts on the Right side of the US House and Senate.

All this is of a piece with the 1998 slaying of Matt Shepard and the radically underpublicized double slaying of lesbians Lollie Winans and Julianne Williams while camping on the Appalachian Trail in 1996.

What do I mean, "all of a piece"? This kind of savagery always begins in thoroughgoing, relentless dehumanization of the victim. He or she is reduced to a hated function or a thing as it is imagined by the killer.

I think the victim in these cases is actually more than mere symbol. The victim becomes the thing itself, a walking-around synecdoche: The part stands for the whole. Here, the Census worker IS the federal government. the Holocaust Museum attendant IS the Jew (and as it happens, the "Nigger" too). The doctor IS abortion. And Matt, Julianne, and Lollie ARE homosexuality, just as the World Trade Center IS the deviant, corrupt America in the minds of Al Qaeda.

How much of this is spawned by the kind of demented Christianity that Frank Schaeffer so correctly denounces? Setting aside the Al Qaeda version, probably all of it if you dig far enough. The connections are obvious in the Tiller, Shepard, Winans, and Williams cases. Maybe they're a little more remote for the current generation in the Holocaust case. Hint: "Christ killers." As for the Sparkman case, it's too early to know, but I speculate that three or four guys steeped in the toxic tea of paranoia, poverty, and Bible-thumping states-rights "patriotism" had a lot to do with it.

If you haven't seen it, be certain to watch Schaeffer's recent appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show." He is riveting. In case you don't know, Schaeffer is the son of the late fundamentalist minister of the same name, but a renegade. His full-time career nowadays is to explain his upbringing and its implications for the country when multiplied by hundreds of thousands, or millions, of men and women brought up to hate facts and despise common sanity. Hence, his must-read Crazy for God.

Has there ever been anything comparable in scope and reach to the US Right's death-dealing assault on America? I'm not being rhetorical.

Taken collectively --from "You lie!" to Fox to Trinity Broadcasting Network to the thousands of Far Right websites, media stations, nonprofit organizations, funding agents, corporations, politicians, home schoolers, private schools, colleges, phone banks, rock bands, "entertainers," lawmakers, judges, and moles in medicine, academia, psychology and psychiatry, women's health care, and the Executive Branch, our nation, like a noble King Hamlet, is literally (not figuratively)--being mortally poisoned through the ear.

The killings aren't the cause of our demise. They're but the symptom.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Perfect Storm, Part 2: "The Last Time Right-Wing Hatred Ran Wild Like This a President Was Killed"

That being John F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in Dallas, of course.

I've been thinking a lot of Kennedy and Dallas as I've watched the increasingly violent rhetorical attacks on Obama be unfurled. As Americans yank their kids of class in order to save them from being exposed to the President of the United States who only wanted to urge them to excel in the classroom. And as unvarnished hate and name-calling passed for health care 'debate' this summer.

The radical right, aided by a GOP Noise Machine that positively dwarfs what existed in 1963, has turned demonizing Obama--making him into a vile object of disgust--into a crusade. It's a demented national jihad, the likes of which this country has not seen in modern times.

But I've been thinking about Dallas in 1963 because I've been recalling the history and how that city stood as an outpost for the radical right, which never tried to hide its contempt for the New England Democrat.

Now, in this this month's Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner offers up in rich detail the hatred that ran wild in Dallas in 1963. To me, the similarity between Dallas in 1963 and today's unhinged Obama hate is downright chilling.

Kashner's fascinating cover story actually chronicles the professional struggles of writer William Manchester who was tapped by the Kennedy family, after the president's assassination, to write the definitive book about the shooting. The Vanity Fair articles details the power struggles, and epic lawsuits, that ensued prior to Manchester's publication.

But this unnerving passage from VF caught my eye. In it, Kashner retraces Manchester's step as he researched his book. It's unsettling because if you insert "Obama" for every "Kennedy" reference, it reads like 2009:

Manchester also discovered that Dallas “had become the Mecca for medicine-show evangelists … the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry Societies, and the headquarters of [ultra-conservative oil billionaire] H. L. Hunt and his activities.”

“In that third year of the Kennedy presidency,” Manchester wrote, “a kind of fever lay over Dallas country. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed, ‘Impeach Earl Warren.’ Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas.…Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; corporate junior executives were required to attend radical seminars.”

A retired major general ran the American flag upside down, deriding it as “the Democrat flag.” A wanted poster with J.F.K.’s face on it was circulated, announcing “this man is Wanted” for—among other things—“turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations” and appointing “anti-Christians … aliens and known Communists” to federal offices.

And a full-page advertisement had appeared the day of the assassination in The Dallas Morning News accusing Kennedy of making a secret deal with the Communist Party; when it was shown to the president, he was appalled. He turned to Jacqueline, who was visibly upset, and said, “Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”

Manchester discovered that in a wealthy Dallas suburb, when told that President Kennedy had been murdered in their city, the students in a fourth-grade class burst into applause.

Today, conservatives are expressing outrage that Rep. Nancy Pelosi had the nerve to raise concerns about the onrush of violent political rhetoric. The Noise Machine claims it has no idea what Pelosi's talking about. But the truth is, America's most famous bouts of political violence (i.e. JFK, Oklahoma City, etc.) have always been accompanied by waves of radical, right-wing rhetoric. Given that history, the GOP's insistence that the hate now filling the streets couldn't possibly inspire violence seems woefully naive.

It is time for Americans of every stripe to insist that the Secret Service and FBI operate at the highest levels of effectiveness. Sign your name to this petition so that Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, hears the message loud and clear. And please pass this message on to your friends and colleagues. It is a difficult time in America, and we have to stand up and make sure our president is safe.

[This piece, by Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, appeared September 18, 2009,on AlterNet. I think it is worth including here, in full.]

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Perfect Storm: Part I

Twin incidents in the early 1990s – Ruby Ridge and the Waco Branch Dividian assault –inadvertently played directly to the “black helicopters” and virulently anti-Left mindset of the survivalist, neo- patriot, Christianist, militia Far Right, and may have triggered the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

But in a way, something even worse happened. These two events left a very big chip on the shoulder of the entire Right. Today, some fifteen years later, they have been positioned to prevent the Federal government from even investigating, let alone moving to contain the threat of violence from the Right. I call this the Ruby-Waco Effect.

The spectre of a repeat Ruby Ridge or Waco act to allow the Right to roll back the line on impermissible expression further and further. Effectively, this spectre is immunizing even blatantly incendiary speech and proximate violence. Witness the recent and increasingly frequent presence of armed weapons at presidential appearances, the frequent invocation of bloodshed on rightwing TV and radio, and accusations of treason, among other fighting words, on the part of the Left. Not to meention the palpably racist “You lie!” outburst at a sitting President’s speech before a Joint Session of Congress. This serious breach of decorum has not been seen since the Civil War Era. Lest "decorum" sound too ridiculously quaint, be reminded that civility is essential for achieving workable compromise. When decorumis so crudely dispensed with, we might well ask whether workable compromise is a shared objective. I think we know the answer to that. The GOP has told us repeatedly that they WANT this President to fail. I call that treason.

Yesterday's clarion call was "black helicopters." Today's seems to be "Obama's death camps."

The Ruby-Waco Effect has seemingly paralyzed US government at every level vis a vis restraining nacent rightwing threats, but none so much as the Federal government of an “N-word” president.

No one dares to draw the line past which this avowedly murderous, kying, secessionist Far Right faction can go without endangering the peace and/or the President.

This is the first post in a series of posts about the gathering perfect storm. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Boondoggle in the Works

Requiring every American to have health insurance, and offering a federal subsidy to Americans who can't afford to buy health insurance.

That's what Senator Max Baucus's long-awaited health care bill will do.

There wouldn't be a public option.

I haven't thought about this insurance requirement much until now. You know what? I think it's a very large boon to an already grossly over-fed corporate America. Everybody has to buy one of their products, and the government will pay for it if you can't.

Read what the BBC notes: "In particular, the 'individual mandate' (the rule forcing all Americans to take out health insurance or face a fine) will create a lot of new customers for insurance companies, and many of the newly-enrolled members will be young, healthy people who have previously opted not to get insurance."

Right. Let me see if I've got this. Make the healthiest part of the population buy health insurance. With their cushy new jobs and high salaries, I'm guessing. Or not; I think I heard that for teens today, the jobless rate is 25%. That's a Great Depression jobless rate.

Is there a countervailing requirement that this new-found insurance industry bounty be used to fund the un- and underinsured poor and elderly? Not that I know of. I don't think the Senate Finance Committee wants to interfere with executive bonuses.

An acquaintance pointed out that this plan is not so different from requiring all drivers to have car insurance -- except of course the government doesn't buy car insurance for you if you can't by it yourself.

The thing is, there are all these laws but there are still millions of people driving around without auto insurance. If this measure passes, there'll be millions without health insurance, too.

Who's going to police them/us? Who's going to collect those fines? A whole new phalanx of insurance bureaucrats paid for by you 'n me in the form of our mandatory health insurance premiums, that's who. I can't imagine our beneficent employers will leap to the front of the line to pick up that tab, can you?

But see, if we had a public option, government would create an insurance competitor--not unfairly capitalized or able to put private insurors out of business; just sufficient to force crucial price and coverage concessions from the for-profit private sector.

If we had a public option, government would negotiate cost savings for prescription medications, medical aids (wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc.), as well as surgical and diagnostic procedures.

A public option would also be less cumbersome because it wouldn't mandate an enforcement brigade or a collections department.

And it wouldn't have to be invented. We have one now. It's called Medicare.

But all this is far too sane for our Congress. Entirely too clean for a bunch of bought-and-paid-for insurance, pharma, and for-profit healthcare hacks.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bottom Feeding

Parse the evening news commentary. Like CNN. The airwaves are hot with the Joe Wilson story. He's "an American hero to many." It will probably "do him good" in his Republican district. "It's going over well in the heartland." Joe raised $200K!


Well, Joe's opponent, the former Marine, the Democrat who's running against him, raised over $1M in the same 48 hours. But that's not something you need to know.

And let me tell you something. "Real" Americans just won the White House and both houses of Congress, so you can stop equating "real" Americans with "conservatives" and "heartland" with "real" America any second now. That would be truth in advertising, you brain-dead, programmed news droids.

And on the subject of programmed brain-washed news droids, how about making clear that Joe is flat-out wrong. Just establish that FACT, could you? The bill expressly excludes immigrants who are here illegally. There's no "yeah but" about it. End of story.

Here's what: Joe just lowered the bar for acceptable political discourse, at a time when it's already in the gutter on the Right and manufactured deliberately to take us inexorably to a place where the time for talking is over and only weapons will speak. I worry for my country. But don't let that stop you from making him into a "hero."

"Hero"? Is it the standard now that you're an American hero if you're uninformed, dead wrong, crudely inarticulate, militantly insult a sitting President, dumb as a slab of mutton, and can't tell the difference between a Joint Session of Congress and a bunch of drunken Bubbas at a hog callin'?

Hey, if he's a hero, let's just get this done right now and get it over with! Let's ditch the Bald Eagle and make the polecat our national icon while we're at it. Ann Coulter can be the new Secretary of Ethics and Integrity, and Michelle Bachman can be our new Madonna.

When formerly American heroes were men like Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., now American heroes are men like Joe Wilson? I denounce and deny that. Words have meaning. Heros have earned our highest regard, generally by putting their lives on the line for others. Joe Wilson just brayed like a jackass. He's American white trash, maybe, but he's no "hero."

I would love it if, just once, moderate, thinking Republicans--all ten of you--stood like grown-ups and called the line on the thugs that have stolen your party, the media, and the national discourse and replaced them, respectively, with the SS, the National Enquirer, and a spitball fight.

I mean, my inlaws--who would JUST DIE if they knew I called them that--are educated people. Nevertheless, they watch Fox. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Can someone please explain to me how educated people can watch FOX and believe it? How is it possible that they consider themselves decent, conservative, and well bred, AND Republicans, when Republicanism has become synonymous with Fox News? With Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, Joe Wilson, and Joe the Plumber? Why aren't they ashamed? I mean, you just cannot be respectable AND Republican. You can't be educated AND a creationist, capable of independent research AND believe Fox, a proponent of family values AND a fan of Michelle Bachman, or respectable AND a Republican.

America really is in a race to the bottom, and Republicans are winning it.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, Presente!

In the end, the reason I'm a Democrat and not a Republican--never a Republican--is that the orientation of my party is outward, to ensure the wellbeing of all, and forward, to achieve the promise of the future.

The letter from Senator Edward M. Kennedy referenced by the President in Wednesday night’s address to the Joint Session of Congress.

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Liberatarians and Republicans: Prove It

The other week I was considerably annoyed to hear a reasonably young lawyer opine that the public option would create a nanny state. The public option would provide health insurance, for a premium, to those who can't get it now. The conversation also included Switzerland, which our young lawyer was pleased to castigate as a nanny state destined to be populated by a mass of barnacles. (My phrase, not hers.)

Well. Isn't it amusing that the World Economic Forum just anointed Switzerland just last week the world's MOST COMPETITIVE ECONOMY, eclipsing the USA, and people are speaking openly about the USA's apparent descent to 3rd world country status--blaming it on Obama, of course, who has been in office about 1/100th of the time that Republicans have controlled US trade, economic, and monetary policy in the last 50 years.

The UN is even thinking about replacing the dollar as the currency standards with a global currency.

Here's what I want to say about all that.

The GOP has run its massive demonstration projects twice now, for a very long time. The first time led to the Great Depression, an epoch of agonywithout measure. The second, inaugurated by Ronald Reagan and driven to a fiscal, moral, and civil nadir by George W. Bush, just concluded.

Over against that was the incredible success of Clinton's trade, economic, and monetary policy.

So to conservatives, I say, show me your successes. Put the record up against the rhetoric. Exactly what has a free-market economy and welfare state for bankers, oil corps, pharmaceuticals, mining, Enron, Halliburton, and KBR achieved for the majority of Americans? What has insurance-dependent, for-profit medicine brought the average family? What has union-busting achieved for the average blue-collar worker? Where is the vaunted prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s, which thrived BECAUSE OF Franklin Delano Roosevelt's brilliant conprehension of the relationship between democracy and economics? Why has the dollar plummeted in value? Why has the average family required two or three jobs to break even (if that)? Why has dismantling worker protections brought workers to their knees rather than the promised prosperity of trickle-down economics?

I want the GOP to answer. Rhetorical attacks on the political economics that brought the world the most prosperous nation in human history just don't cut the mustard anymore.

So when you hear Jon Kyl--that sanctimonious lying sack of liquified excrement--intone about the sins of Obama, why don't you pin his trollish ears back with some facts? When Mitch McConnell--that butter-fed mongoose--warns darkly about "socialism," why don't you just sit down, shut up, and think for a change. Read some history.

I would think figuring out what went right then and what has gone so horribly wrong since would be a high priority for you.

But then I never imagined anyone would be fool enough to vote for George W. Bush.

The American people are as intelligent as anybody else. They're just a whole hell of a lot less educated. Most of us don't have a foggy inkling what Roosevelt actually did--let alone what profound issues apart from soup kitchens lay behind what he did. Most of us couldn't trace the connections among Reagan, Bush, Bush, and the gazillion-dollar deficit if our lives depended on it. Because we don't vote policy. We vote personality.

I hope everyone is right ready to explain to your 20-year-old how your vote was in his or her generation's best interests.

Help Shut Joe Wilson's Big, Fat, Boorish Republican Mouth

Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, you're a bona fide member of the US Right wing, and you're a boor. But, oh, sorry. That's obviously redundant.

An address to the American people by the President of the United States before a joint session of the United States Congress attended by the Diplomatic Corps, the members of the US Supreme Court, and the President's Cabinet isn't a hog calling in Bug Tussle, South Carolina.

Since aren't in charge of your mouth, don't bother to read facts, and don't have your emotions under control, you obviously qualify to be a first-rate member of the Republican Party.

But you just don't belong in a position of national leadership or in the company of civilized ladies and gentlemen. And you don't model behavior that I would want my children to witness. You model Republican values: You're a disgrace.

More than that, you're a bully and a coward. How do I know? Because if the President were a white man, you wouldn't have dared. And I want you out of office. To that end, I am donating cash to the election campaign of Democrat Rob Miller, your opponent, and I strongly encourage everyone I know to do likewise. It won't take a minute.

Show Joe how progressives feel about boors on the Right. https://secure.actblue.com/entity/fundraisers/19079 Visit ActBlue, and act.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Then and Now: A Reflection on the Civil Society

I ran across this while I was cleaning out my trusty day timer thingy. It's got zip lockable pockets into which I put my stuff. So I was rummaging in my stuff to see if there's anything in there that time and experience have transcended when I ran across this prayer, said to be Ben Franklin's.

Now, please don't feel that I'm pushing religion down your throat. That's none 'o my biz. I'm just asking you to read this sociologically, within the context of then--the period when our Constitution and Bill of Rights were written--and now--the period when folks protest a President who encourages learning and hard work, and actually take Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh seriously.

O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind offices to Thy other children as the only return in my power for Thy continual favors to me.

I get really hot under the collar when I hear conservatives blabber about personal responsibility and individual rights. That's all well and good, but it ain't the whole hog. They would have us believe that poverty is a choice and that success is self-made, and that lending a hand to a neighbor is creating a nanny state.

That's when I go on about how there's no such thing as "self-made." What I mean is what Franklin recognizes here. Whether we attribute it to God or to human technological and intellectual advancement, the fact is that in the USA especially, all of us rise up by virtue of enormous advantages that we personally had no role whatever in creating.

These are the myriad advantages without which none of us could claim to have "made it," no matter how hard we worked. All of us are indebted to a great, collective social bounty. (The only reason that conservatives don't hyperventilate and call it "socialism," too, is because that would really mess their ideology all up. Oh wait. They do call it socialism and they want to "privatize" it! More about THAT later!)

Here's what I'm talking about, and even if we don't all have each one, we all have some of them. I'm talking everything from driveable highways, free public schools, emergency medical technicians and ambulances, libraries, book stores, museums, parks and truck farms, and phones that work, and gas and electricity on demand, and civil order, and national security, and accessible food supplies, all the way up to the elegant essentials of nature: air to breathe, water to drink and play in, sunshine, moonlight, vast canyons, awesome mountains, great wheat and corn fields, fish and plants and animals large and small.

I'm talking from spiritual and physical to technological and communal and intellectual, and, yes, political: We have the greatest constitution and bill of rights the world has ever known.

It all counts. ALL of it is ours without our every having even acknowledged it, let alone had a hand in creating it. And I haven't even gotten to the individual advantages of race, class, culture, gender, wealth, and connections that grace so many.

So wouldn't you think we'd be honest enough, and humble enough, to own that massive debt, and to get that there's only one way to repay it? To get that it can only be paid forward because it can never be paid back?

Franklin understood that unequivocal, inescapable, profound, and universal truth. I think it's no coincidence that he could help to write our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. These come, ultimately, from the same wellspring: a proper, grounded, fact-based understanding of the human being's place in the cosmos.

For all their "Christianizing," the Right, the GOP, and conservatives don't seem to have grasped this at all. Therefore, it's no coincidence that they would lead us, if we let them, straight to Hell.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Yours to Save or Yours to Lose

I'm sitting here watching the country nose-dive into the latter-day equivalent of the Dark Ages, wondering how in the hell we got here.

For anyone with any historical depth vis a vis the US of A--that would be anyone who is at least 40, has an interest in this country, and values a fact-based universe--where we are is all but unimaginable.

Did you ever think, in your wildest imagination, that a vocal part of the country would actually object to a sitting President's extolling our kids to study hard, learn more, and excel? I confess: I sit nigh paralized in wonder.

I'm even more stupefied that the whole entire rest of the country hasn't just risen up as one and slain these agents provocateur.

Can we immediately stop calling these people fools and morons? Can we step back a moment and observe that they are successfully de-railing the agenda of a Democratically controlled government? That's many things, but "stupid" isn't one of them.

I've followed the Far Right for quite a while: since the early 80s, in fact. All that time, I've tried to warn any who would listen that we're in for a whirlwind of the Daniel Webster (see Scopes monkey trial) sort. Can you see it now?

AND WHY IS THAT? When Pat Robertson lost his bid for the White House, the Christianist Far Right devised a brilliant long-term strategy to remake this country in the image of a fascist, patriarchalist, capitalist, racist, fundamentalist society.

what does that mean? Look up each word. Fascist. Capitalist. Patriarchal. Racist. Fundamentalist. Now THINK. Is what you see consistent with what I say is going down?

We have a choice. Either we say NOT NO, HELL NO, and say it NOW, or we will be ruled by the most violent, illiterate, uneducated, male-supremacist, racist, homophobic, and Darwinian 20 percent of Americans ever created.

Young Americans: Wake up. You are about to lose the Dream.

And that, my friends, is why this President is right: A good education is worth more than gold. With it, you can navigate the dangerous rapids of endless propaganda and mass manipulation. Without it, you're helpless.