Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Awesome World

Often, in the mittendrinnen, or middle of things, when someone has made an irritating or insulting statement, or taken an action one doesn’t approve of, we forget that we live in the middle of awesomeness. It’s certainly easy enough for me to get on a soapbox to decry the latest craziness from the Republican party, the Tea Party, or any one of the Christian churches that purport to converse with an invisible being and direct our lives.

English: Corsair Airbus A330-200 landing at th...

English: Corsair Airbus A330-200 landing at the world famous Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I’m lucky, something will draw my attention to some beautiful, dramatic or mind-blowing event on this great big planet or out beyond, and I’ll pause in my fulminations to think, “You know, this is a hell of a place.!” Today CNN ran a fluff piece on a hobby called plane spotting. I had heard of train spotting before, but connected it in my head with drug users, because of the eponymously named movie. But the visuals that went along with the piece blew me away. Think you’d enjoy tanning yourself on Maho Beach, St. Maarten? (Right click on any photo to see it full size.)

Of course, if you make time for them, natural phenomena can sweep you off your feet, too. A striking sky, a mountain top. All remind us that the world we live in, and the universe that world inhabits, offer some spectacular beauty. In the middle of a hectic life, when really minor details are pulling you this way and that, it really helps to lift your eyes up. Seek out beauty in this world and feel good when you find it.

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Filed under Beauty, Joy, Man-made wonders, Natural wonders

John Roberts Takes His Place in History

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. R...

Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. Roberts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chief Justice John Roberts, by siding with the four liberal members of the United States Supreme Court and writing the opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), has moved into the history books. A conservative Catholic, Roberts must have struggled with this case, with one shoulder angel urging him to uphold conservative tenets and overturn the law, and the angel on the other side shouting into his other ear that this case would have an importance far beyond today.

Judges are human beings. They all have life experiences that inform their decisions, no matter what they may say about their ability to be completely neutral. But they are also extremely sensitive to their own reputation, and with

English: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of...

English: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Supreme Court justices, with how they will be remembered by historians. Some, like Clarence Thomas, seem deaf and dumb to the rest of the world. Thomas has been embittered by the way he was treated during his youth, and his confirmation hearing was scandalous. His penchant for asking no questions from the bench during oral arguments is no doubt related to his own life, and he is far to the right of even someone like Scalia.

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of ...

English: Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Antonin Scalia himself is showing signs of early dementia, as he rails against his fellow justices and the president in his dissents and majority opinions.

Many lay people wonder how the justices can make a decision based on each side giving a half-hour argument, with the justices interrupting each attorney repeatedly. But the Court has already read and studied the submitted briefs and basically made up their minds before the oral arguments. So this is just the icing on the case.

Roberts is most concerned with his place in history. If he voted down the law, he would be remembered as the chief justice who did away with the only health care bill to pass Congress in over 100 years. This obviously was repugnant to him, so he chose to stand with the bill’s supporters and be known as the Chief Justice who found the Affordable Care Act constitutional. He did it by finding that it was not a fee but a tax, which was constitutional under the Taxing clause. This logical argument has already by picked up by Senator Mitch (“Do-Nothing”) McConnell as a negative quality of Obama. Fulminating that the administration has snuck a tax in while all Republicans were watching, he promised to dismantle it completely and give the American public a bill with no tax and takes care of them. [When that happens, this writer will be happy to walk across the Mediterranean to celebrate.]s

So Roberts has moved into the textbooks, McConnell is apoplectic, and who knows what the Tea Party is thinking.  There have been Supreme Court decisions in our history that were incredibly wrong-headed, from the vantage point of today: Dred Scott v. Sanford (slaves do not have standing to file a claim in an American court because they are property), U.S. v. Ju Toy (upholding the Chinese Exclusion Act and affirming that US Port Inspectors and the Secretary of Commerce had the power to determine who would be admitted to the country), and Korematsu v. the United States (upholding the government’s decision to intern Japanese-American citizens on the West Coast during World War II). But for the rest of us, today is a time to celebrate a decision that will actually helps the country move forward.This decision will stand with Loving v. Virginia (it is legal for people to marry a member of a different race), Roe v. Wade(a woman may  choose to have an abortion legally), and Lawrence v. Texas (same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal), instances where these nine people made decisions to progress.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Congress, Conservatism, Conservatives, Hatred, Political, Politics, Supreme Court, Tea Party

Education’s Enemies

American Education is in the Dumpster

American Education is in the Dumpster (Photo credit: brewbooks)

BLAMING THE TEACHER

I started teaching junior and senior high school in 1970 and did it for 13 years. Now, you’re not going to believe this, but the same arguments about education that we’re having today were being bandied about then. One group held that teachers weren’t teaching, that their quality had dropped tremendously, and that they were just in it for the money. Their opponents argued that, if teachers had sufficient resources, they could inspire their students to do well, and poor performance was the school district’s fault because it failed to fund the schools sufficiently. In all of the hubbub and angry talk about why students weren’t succeeding, one factor was always ignored, brushed aside, or hidden away: the quality of the student’s support system.

That’s right, I’m talking about the kid’s family, nuclear or extended. For a child to do well in school, he or she has to want to succeed. And they get that desire to succeed from parents who encourage them, who hold education in high regard, and who believe that an educated child has a better chance at succeeding in life as an adult. In these families, parents read to their children in their toddler years, often at bedtime. They make sure that some of the gifts they give to their children during the year are books. They read, too, even if their literacy is poor, and even if it’s only newspapers. They read as an example. These families help their children with homework and school project, and attend the school events. They invest themselves in their children’s education.

Let me tell you a story. When I first started teaching the students in my classes were engaged and interested, not only in school activities but in the larger world. Our student body was heavily Jewish, with a large Italian population, too. The Vietnamese War was raging at the time and kids took positions on both sides. They protested, they wrote letters, they cared about what was going on. And they were challenging to teach.  Thirteen years later, families of different socioeconomic groups had moved in to the neighborhood. I remember calling a parent to express my concern about a student’s homework record and class performance. The father’s response was, “Aw, let the kid alone,” and then he hung up on me. There’s the difference I’m talking about.

Teachers can do great things with kids who want to learn. But with no support from the family it’s almost impossible to reach them.

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM

English: An intellectual contrasted with a pri...

English: An intellectual contrasted with a prize-fighter; by Thomas Nast ca. 1875 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has always been a vein of anti-intellectualism in this country. It’s often expressed by referring to those ‘pointy-headed’ scholars in their ‘ivory towers’ of academia. Higher education has taken the brunt of this because it is more apt to be removed from the hurly-burly of everyday life. And scholarly research is more often trashed than read. I will grant you that some–alright, much–scholarly research is so esoteric as to be meaningless to the laymen, but because of the relentless drive to learn more we have the marvels we have today in medicine, science and technology. Ask an anti-intellectual if he wants to return to a rotary dial, party-line phone. He’ll only answer yes if he’s a Luddite.

The anti-intellectuals in the United States are almost always conservatives. (See Death by Degrees, below) That puts most of them in the Republican camp, but there are some Democrats who have conservative views, too. Why do they get their bloomers in a twist over intellectualism? (By intellectualism, I give you Wikipedia’s definition:)

Intellectualism denotes the use and development of the intellect, the practice of being an intellectual, and of holding intellectual pursuits in great regard.[1][2] Moreover, in philosophy, “intellectualism” occasionally is synonymous with “rationalism”, i.e. knowledge derived mostly from reason and reasoning.

Because the results of intellectual pursuits often include conclusions that go against conservatives’ philosophy of life! For example, conservatives tend to be highly religious, so they wouldn’t immediately cotton to the theory of evolution. It’s bizarre, isn’t it? They go bananas when someone offers evidence that they are descended from the same ancestor as the modern day chimpanzee, but have no difficulty accepting a story that god created them from dirt.

Of course, the more important reason is that an uneducated populace is more apt to accept the way things are rather than make progress. No comfortable person, no one happy in their life just as it is, will develop the restlessness and drive to change things. Why would they? It is the uncomfortable person, the rebel, the person not content with the way things are, who eventually moves us forward.

So you cannot show evidence of global warming to anti-intellectual conservatives because they will willfully ignore it. To them, it’s probably a ‘conspiracy’ from those ‘pointy-headed’ nerds at a university somewhere. And because they’re so anti-intellectual pursuits, they have no trouble seeing teachers as disposable and as school programs like art and music as a waste of money.

With enemies like these, it’s a wonder teachers can educate students at all.

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Filed under Conservatism, Conservatives, Education, Higher education, Secondary education, Teachers

On Hating Brown People

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Supreme Court yesterday pretty much eviscerated Arizona’s harsh immigration law, SB 1070. According to the Court, there were four major provisions in that law for review:

Section 3 makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor; §5(C) makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State; §6 authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person “the officer has probable cause to believe . . . has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States”; and §2(B) requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government.

The Supremes voided §§ 3, 5(C), and 6, saying they preempted the federal government’s power in that area granted by Congress. Regarding §2(B), the Court held:

It is not clear at this stage and on this record that §2(B), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status. This would raise constitutional concerns. And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision. But §2(B) could be read to avoid these concerns. If the law only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision would likely survive preemption—at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives. Without the benefit of a definitive in- terpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to as- sume §2(B) will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law. Cf. Fox v. Washington, 236 U. S. 273, 277. This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.

Essentially, the Court said that, since the law hasn’t gone into effect yet, they can’t void it. But it stated that, if the police were only conducting a status check on someone during their lawful detention for another matter, it would probably be ok. But once the law goes into effect, the Court can look at it again.

Where does this law come from? Why this hatred of brown people? I suppose this could be asked of any new group that seeks refuge in a country that was built on immigration. The original Germans from the Rheinpfalz who came here in the late 1700s and later became the

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 24:  (L-R) Arizona stat...

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 24: (L-R) Arizona state Sen. Steve Gallardo; Russell Pearce, sponsor of the controversial immigration law Arizona SB 1070; former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, and Todd Landfried testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing entitled ‘Examining the Constitutionality and Prudence of State and Local Governments Enforcing Immigration Law’ prior to the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on the legislation tomorrow. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish must have been looked down on by the colonists. I must imagine that the incoming  German immigrants that reached tidal wave status in the latter half of the 1800s had to be an object of scorn. Clearly, the Irish, fleeing the killing potato famine and desperate to feed themselves and their families were vilified. Here we have clear evidence, with signs and advertisements in newspapers  that stated “No Irish Need Apply.” The Jews who came here were characterized as big-nosed monsters, and described sometimes as practicing rites requiring them to drink the blood of  Christian infants. Italians, whose wave began in the early 1900s, were characterized as thieves and sneaks. Essentially, any new group coming to these shores to seek the American dream has been vilified and put upon during their early years.

Part of the problem people already here had with immigrants was their reluctance to speak English (one of the more difficult languages in the world to conquer) and their tendency to stay together in neighborhoods, or ghettos. In my own family I know that my great-great grandmother, born in 1870 to immigrant parents from the Rheinpfalz, spoke German only as a child and went to German schools in a community now known as Lindenhurst but then called Breslau, after the second largest city in Prussia before the end of World War II. Why is it so frightening to many conservative Americans that modern immigrants from Mexico are more comfortable speaking Spanish? These people get exercised if a ballot is written in both languages. I sometimes wonder if they’re like my great-uncle Jerry, who honestly believed that when people were conversing in a foreign language around him, they were talking about him. The arrogance was, and is, mind boggling. And these same people come up with horrendous legislation in return.

English: Photo of Kris Kobach

English: Photo of Kris Kobach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The people who write these laws (Russell Pearce in Arizona, and most especially the Attorney General of Kansas, Kris Kobach, who drafted that legislation and others around the country) that clearly intend to make life a living hell for the undocumented are invariably white conservatives. Their fear is that ‘their’ nation will not be theirs any more, that the reign of the White Anglo Saxon Protestant is over. But rather than welcoming the newcomers and helping them assimilate, they lash out at them. Epithets are spewed, positions are taken (in the name of protecting the country) and outrageous ideas are seriously entertained. Does anyone actually believe that we’re going to wall off the southern boundary of our country and that will solve the problem?

In fifty years we will look back on this time and wonder how our fellow countrymen (and women) could have been so stupid. Because in the current 11 million undocumented people exist doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, university professors, and business creators. Take a look at this list to see what immigrants can do for this country:

Immigrants on the Forbes 400

The Forbes 400 is a list published by Forbes magazine of the richest 400 Americans. It was first published in 1982. It is ranked by net worth and is published annually in September and 2010 marks the 29th issue. In the Forbes 400, there are 35 individuals who are immigrants. Here is a comprehensive list of these immigrants, including their nationality, net worth, age, organization, title and source of wealth (arranged by net worth).

Name Nationality Net Worth Age Organization Title Source
Sergey Brin Russia $19.8 B 37 Google Co-Founder Google; Self-made
George Soros Hungary $14.5 B 80 Quantum Fund Founder Hedge funds; Self-made
Leonard Blavatnik Russia $10.1 B 53 Access Industries Founder; Chairman; President Access Industries; Self-made
Rupert Murdoch Australia $7.6 B 80 News Corp. CEO News Corp; Self-made
Pierre Omidyar France $6.7 B 43 Ebay Founder; Chairman Ebay; Self-made
Micky Arison Israel $5.9 B 61 Carnival Corporation CEO Carnival Cruises; Inherited and growing
Patrick Soon-Shiong South Africa $5.2 B 59 Abraxis BioScience Founder; Chairman and CEO Generic drugs; Self-made
Roger Wang China $4.2 B 62 The Golden Eagle International Group Chairman; CEO Retail; Self-made
Victor Fung China $3.55 B 65 Li & Fung Group Chairman Retail; Self-made
Robert Friedland Canada $3.4 B 60 Ivanhoe Mines, Inc. Executive Chairman; CEO Mining; Self-made
Haim Saban Egypt $3.4 B 66 Media Proprietor Media Proprietor Television; Self-made
Barbara Piasecka Johnson Poland $2.9 B 74 Johnson & Johnson None Johnson & Johnson; Inherited
Steven Ferencz Udvar-Házy Hungary $2.8 B 65 Air Lease Corp. CEO International Lease Finance; Self-made
Edgar Miles Bronfman Canada $2.6 B 81 Inherited None Seagram’s liquor; Inherited and growing
John Catsimatidis row 16, column 2 $2.6 B 69 Kingston Technology President; Co-Founder Computer memory; Self-made
David Sun Taiwan $2.6 B 59 Kingston Techonology Co- Founder Computer memory; Self-made
John Tu Taiwan $2.6 B 69 Kingston Technology President; Co-Founder Computer memory; Self-made
Igor Olenicoff Russia $2.5 B 68 Olen Properties Founder Real estate; Self-made
Nicolas Berggruen France $2.2 B 49 Berggruen Holdings Founder; President Investments; Inherited and growing
Bharat Desai Kenya $2.2 B 58 Syntel CEO; Chairman Syntel; Self-made
Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman Canada $2.1 B 73 Boston Properties Co-Founder Real estate; Media; Self-made
Min Kao Taiwan $1.7 B 62 Garmin Corporation Co-Founder Navigation equipment; Self-made
Alexander Rovt Ukraine $1.7 B 58 IBE Trade Corp President Fertilizer; Self-made
James Kim Korea $1.6 B 75 Amkor Electronics Executive chairman Microchips; Inherited and growing
Eduardo Saverin Brazil $1.6 B 29 Facebook Co-founder Facebook, Self-made
Evgeny Markovich Shvidler Russia $1.6 B 47 Millhouse, LLC Chairman Millhouse LLC, self-made
Kavitark Ram Shriram India $1.6 B 54 Google Co-Founder Venture capital; Google; Self-made
Peter Andreas Thiel Germany $1.5 B 43 Paypal Co-Founder; Former CEO Paypal; Facebook; Self-made
Vinod Khosla India $1.4 B 56 Khosla Ventures Founder Sun Microsystems; Venture capital; Self-made
Thomas Peterffy Hungary $1.4 B 66 Interactive Brokers Group Founder; CEO Interactive Brokers Group; Self-made
Romesh T. Wadhwani India $1.4 B 63 Symphony Technology Group Founder; Chairman Software; Self-made
Alexander Knaster Russia $1.3 B 52 Pamplona Capital Management Director Oil; Telecom; Banking; Self-made
Michael Moritz Wales $1.3 B 56 Sequoia Capital Partner Venture capital; Self-made
Jerry Yang Taiwan $1.3 B 42 Yahoo Co-founder; Former CEO Yahoo; Self-made
C. Dean Metropoulos Greece $1.2 B 64 C. Dean Metropoulos & Co Executive Chairman Investments; Self-made

Data was obtained from Forbes.com.

The picture painted by most conservatives is that Hispanic immigrants (read Mexicans) are lazy, shiftless, money-grubbing leaches who come here only to get on welfare, take away jobs from deserving Americans, have their babies here to gain citizenship, and take advantage of our health care system by clogging emergency rooms everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. These immigrants want to work, they want to be part of this country. And here in Nevada, it’s an even greater irony, because they are emigrating to a land that was theirs for centuries before we took it away from them.

Hatreds die hard, but they find it difficult to survive in a person if they meet the object of their scorn and find them human like themselves.


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Filed under Hatred, Human rights, Immigrant, Immigration, Immigration reform, Police, Politics, Supreme Court

How to talk to each other

English: Lady Gaga and Monster announce Projec...

English: Lady Gaga and Monster announce Project RED Heartbeats and RED Beats Solo at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must have seen umpteen tv programs where people with opposing viewpoints sit down and try to talk about an issue. But what really happens is that each person brings their version of the ‘truth’ to the table with the goal of persuading the other person to accept it as gospel. Now, when everyone is trying to do that, no one is going to win. More importantly, no one is going to hear. Because in order to accomplish this feat of getting the other person to accept your version of truth, you resort to talking loudly, talking over them, disrespecting them, demeaning them, and generally trashing any ideas they may have. It’s a lose-lose situation.

So how can we talk to each other? That requires us to go beneath the positions that most people present as their argument. All of us do this. Take this situation. John Doe works a late shift at the factory, getting home each night at 1 am. He like to unwind by cracking a beer and putting on some Lady Gaga music. After about an hour, he’s ready to his the sack. But he lives in an apartment underneath Madonna Maternal, who just had her second child a month ago and is trying to raise two toddlers on her own. She works the day shift at a Taco Bell while her mom babysits the kids. John’s music shakes the floor of Madonna’s home, often waking the kids and making nights fairly miserable for the mother. During the day, while John’s trying to sleep, there’s a lot of activity in Madonna’s apartment, especially with Jolie, her older child, who can walk now and like to do a lot over it on the wooden floors.

If John and Madonna run pretty much to type, one will confront the other about the “noise” in their apartment and how it’s affecting life for the complainant. Let’s say Madonna complains to John. John takes umbrage, pointing out that what he does in his home is his business and telling Madonna to suck it up. Madonna may become enraged, and plot how she can make more noise in the morning to disturb John’s rest. And on and on. You get the picture.

The key to being able to talk to each other in these situations is to find neutral language to use when having that conversation. That is, Madonna needs  to say something like, “I’m concerned about the sounds coming from your apartment late at night. Those sounds cause my floors to vibrate and wake the kids.” John is then free to talk about how he needs to unwind after work and the music  helps him relax. Once the ‘whys’ are out on the table, they can both seek ways to resolve the issues. Madonna could ask if John could use headphones at that hour of the night, so he could still listen but the family upstairs wouldn’t be disturbed by it. And John might suggest a rug on the floor over his bedroom, so when the little tyke is running all over the apartment, her dainty footsteps would be muted and he could sleep more soundly.

This process is called seeking the needs that underly the positions, but you don’t need to know that. What’s important is that you need to find why someone is taking a particular position before you get into a fight with them. What you’re looking for are ways to state those needs using nonjudgmental language, which makes it possible for people to talk about things. Here’s an example. Two politicians were discussing the abortion issue. One took the position that abortion was morally wrong and unacceptable, while the other felt that women should have a choice in these situations. There was no way one would come around to the other’s point of view, and this made further conversations between them impossible. But then one politician started asking the other why they felt the way they did. That is, what need did each politician’s position fulfill for them.And they found one they both agreed upon: Both pols wanted to decrease the number of teenage pregnancies. So they were finally able to have a conversation about what steps could be taken to resolve that issue.

When you’re having difficulty talking to someone, start asking why they feel the way they do and be sure to reframe their feelings in nonjudgmental language. Then see where the conversation goes!

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Dog Days of Summer Starting Earlier?

John Roberts - Caricature

John Roberts – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Here it is, June 22, and the days are starting to get shorter again. The heat is up in the east, and it’s settling in nicely in the west for its long summer run. Normally, things slow down come August, but it appears the dog days are starting earlier this year, especially for us bloggers.

Look at politics. Chief Justice John Roberts has signaled, by actually saying nothing, that the SCOTUS will probably go into overtime on finalizing its opinion on the Health Care law. If it’s another 5-4 decision split exactly according to the politics of the appointing president (i.e.: the 5 votes belong to justices appointed by Republican presidents, etc.), then summer could start heating up pretty quickly. It might be that an issue that affects all of us, and which almost half of us oppose (the bill in general) but less than 40% support it, being decided by a single vote could truly put many noses out of joint. It would be to the country’s advantage if the justices were able to decide 6-3 or 7-2. But as of today it’s all quiet on the Potomac.

Mitt Robme is said to be softening his views on immigration. That is, he’s willing to consider granting green cards to immigrants who serve in the military. That’s sweet, but it is like Caligula deciding to spare a Christian in the Coliseum because the emperor felt he’d do well in the Pretorian guard. Robme’s thinking simply excludes any immigrants who won’t serve. So the Republican grand plan to deal with the 11 million Hispanics in the country without documents is to allow those who can join the military to become citizens.

Mittster

Mittster (Photo credit: DoubleSpeak Media)

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s a step, but even smaller than a baby step. Yes, it’s true that, based on the Social Security Administrations analysis of the age groups of undocumented immigrants, most are below thirty. So the question becomes, just how many of those young people can and will enlist? And that’s where we left the Mittster, trying to score points with Hispanics by softening his originally razor-sharp opposition to those people he assumed would “self-deport” when they couldn’t get jobs here.

The Roman Catholic Church is quiet today, too. No more scandals about child abuse have been reported, no chants of Catholic-bashing, and no Vatican tongue-lashings for nuns are evident. We must thank God for that. I’m sure She’s taking a breather, too.

For a blogger, this is slim pickings. There’s no really juicy story to respond to or to explain. Maybe it’s good that it comes at the end of the work week, when I can recharge my batteries with two days off.

Let’s hope for more scandal and false pieties next week!

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Filed under Barack Obama, Congress, Hispanic, Hypocrisy, Immigration, Immigration reform, Politics, Religion, Roman Catholic Church, Supreme Court

Over the Top, Again

English: Congressman Darrell Issa's Official 1...

English: Congressman Darrell Issa’s Official 111th Congressional Photograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, a House of Representatives oversight committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (California) votes straight party line to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress. Why, you ask? Because he failed to turn over some documents related to the committee’s ‘investigation  of what the New York Times called “a botched gunrunning sting operation known as “Fast and Furious.” Or, because he failed to turn these documents because he legally couldn’t. And now the president has invoked executive privilege to prevent the AG from having to go to court.

Congressman Issa has been gunning for the administration ever since he took office. He has been looking for anything he could characterize a misstep or an outright failure to do something that, in Issa’s mind, was against Issa’s philosophy. But he ran the committee like a kangaroom court. This program began under the Bush administration, yet Issa failed to call any Bush people to testify, even though members of his own committee requested that he do so.
There is a sense of a feeding frenzy going on here. “Fast and Furious” proposed to allow marked guns to be sold across the border in Mexico, with the idea that the Feds could then arrest the bad guys. It was a bait program, but many of the guns got lost. But why are the Republicans’ linens in a lump over this? Rachel Maddow explained last night that the basis for the Republicans’ twisted bloomers is the prospect of the loss of the Second Amendment!

The Rachel Maddow Show (TV series)

The Rachel Maddow Show (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know, I know, however did that thought creep in? Well, it involves a blogger, Michael Vanderboegh, who blogged on the day that the Healthcare bill was passed that conservatives should demonstrate their displeasure with this socialist measure by breaking  the windows in Democratic party office. Sure enough, that happened, but Vanderboegh was never even questioned by law enforcement. He has continued to pontificate about the evils of the Obama administration, but has moved on to promulgating a new conspiracy theory about President Obama “taking away your guns.” How is Obama doing this, you ask? According to Maddow,

“[T]he theory here is the Obama administration [is] being super lax in gun control as a conspiracy in order to be super tough on gun control. What? […]”

Yes, you heard it right. The way Obama is going to take away “our guns” is to say nothing and do nothing about gun control, so that when he is elected for a second term, he will dispense with the Second Amendment. Vanderboegh has been spreading this fairy tale on–where else–Fox News, where the reporters are hungry for such bullpucky. But he also shared his theory with Senator Jeff Sessions (R, AL) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA), who bought it completely. That’s what brought us to the shameful actions of the House oversight committee today. If you’d like a fuller picture, see the Rachel Maddow segment on “Madness of the Higher Order” at http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/.

The twisting and turning and writhing that this issue brings out in conservatives is in keeping with their view that their world is threatened (See my post, Heaven’s Gate Redux) but also suggests something else. Under all the pomposity and posturing, they know that their stance on guns is unsupportable. No one can seriously say that a president has lulled us to sleep in his first term by doing nothing to impose gun control because that’s what he’s going to do in his second term. But that’s what Wayne LaPierre, current president of the National Rifle Associate, posited at a conservative conference. Doesn’t that remind you of Captain Queeg on the witness stand in the Caine Mutiny? “It all started with the strawberries.” There is a manic madness manifesting itself in conservative politicians and public figures that augurs poorly for our country’s reputation in the world. When half the country wants to continue doing the nation’s business like we’ve done in the past and the other half is having a meltdown in full view, who is to say that nation has a future at all?

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