Category Archive Opinion

ByRandomology

9/11: An Immigrant’s Perspective

I still can’t hear “Danny Boy.”

I remember the moment I became interested in politics and world events. When I grew up in Mexico, I heard from someone that the United States had gone to war. To me, the United States was a magical land where people could find jobs, where you could be anything you wanted to be, where I could go to McDonald’s. That was my youthful, limited view of this country. I’d lived here when I was much, much younger, but before the age of ten, the United States was still a mysterious place where anything could happen. I mean, come on. It had Disneyland.

Eleven years ago, I was in my room while practicing for an upcoming choir competition. I had just popped in a tape (wow, I’m dating this) with the instrumentals to the songs we needed to learn. I was halfway through “Danny Boy.” I was just past the line about all the flowers dying when my mom called me to her room and said something had happened in New York City.

I looked at the television and saw that a plane had struck one of the towers in the World Trade Center. I imagined every possible cause of this catastrophe. The announcers were concerned, of course. They were in New York City themselves.

“This wasn’t an accident,” I said.

I watched for several minutes but knew I had to go practice. I couldn’t focus, however. I kept seeing the fire and the gutted skyscraper. By the time I went to school, I heard from others that a second plane had hit. I knew then it wasn’t an accident. The school administration wouldn’t let us turn the televisions on and said we had to focus on studying, but everyone was talking about what had just happened.

When the televisions were finally allowed back on hours later, we saw a dust cloud over Lower Manhattan. Someone started muttering, “Where are the towers? Where are the towers?”

It might have been me.

The rest of the day just disappeared. When we left school, my sister and I went to put gas in the car. The line stretched around the block as people rushed to get the soon-precious commodity. It was the last time I’ve filled up my tank for less than twenty-five dollars. It was also the last time I’d felt truly safe.

I was angry. This was my home, my country. I wasn’t born here, but I certainly worked to prove myself as a good American citizen, so for someone to do this to us, to me, was infuriating in a way I’ve never experienced since. The school year sort of faded away. The invasion of Afghanistan came and victory loomed over the horizon, or so I thought. As summer finally arrived, I questioned my earlier anger. I was angry at an entire group of people, a whole country. I wanted to see them pay for supporting the slaughter of thousands…

Then, I went to college. It’s become a cliché that education makes you liberal, but it’s true. Being exposed to new ideas, new concepts, new people, all have a profound effect on us. I know it did to me. By the time I left ten years ago, I had lived and worked with people who were Jewish, Christian, Wiccan, atheists, gay, straight, bisexual, conservative, liberal, communists, libertarians, and everything in between.

I learned to not just live with, but accept other points of view. The Second Iraq War came and I felt disgusted with myself. The nation I’d admired so much was now a bully, a scared child that had been hit hard, had suffered, and was now lashing at anyone and anything it felt was a threat. I’d never been part of the minority before. In South Texas, Hispanics are the majority, but in Indiana, I was very much a minority. I’d been bullied when I was much younger, but it wasn’t until I went to college that I felt like an outsider.

After graduation, I worked odd jobs, eventually working as a Congressional speechwriter in the fall of 2008. While on the Hill, I saw apathy. I saw people calling in, sometimes screaming, over imagined slights. I saw the uneducated behind doors and banging on said doors to get attention. There was a fear in the air. It was the same fear of the other, of something alien coming in and taking away that which was ours. It’s the same kind of fear the GOP is relying on this time around. It’s the same fear and botched education that fueled the Tea Party. It’s the reason Fox News can claim to be news. It says what the subconscious wants to hear.

When I was a child, the United States was a magical land. It was a goal, but once I got here, it took years for me to realize it was something that needed to be tended. It grew. It breathed. It could not survive the ignorance and fear of that day, and yet it’s still used as subtly as using a lead pipe to perform brain surgery.

Whenever someone asks why I write about politics, education, and art, and why I spend time trying to make sure my students develop critical thinking skills, I remember that younger me. I remember the things I said and wished.

I’m grateful that version of me never had the power to make good on those threats.

 

ByBrian Hoffer

Bain Way or the Highway

The world of venture capitalism is often referred to as “vulture capitalism” for a reason. Firms don’t always invest in a company that might hit it big. In the case of companies like Bain Capital, you can invest in struggling companies, pass on the debt to them, and through excessive management fees and carried interest arrangements (which under current tax law, are subject to far lower taxation rates), milk the company dry and leave it, its workers, other lenders, and sometimes even the taxpayers on the hook for the leftover debts.

Even Bain itself was nearly dismantled at the expense of employees and lenders. When the company was unable to make payments to lenders, including the FDIC, Romney engineered a scheme to pay out all liquidity as executive bonuses, leaving lenders with nothing in return – UNLESS they would reduce Bain’s debt to a fraction of its former amount. The blackmail worked, leaving the lenders out to dry – and the FDIC having to recoup the loss through higher insurance premiums to banks, who naturally passed on the expense to customers. Essentially, taxpayers gave Bain a bailout.

Now, Romney and company are auditioning for the role of America’s manager – but without giving any specifics on how they’ll balance out large tax cuts for “job creators” or an increase in defense spending. Is that in any way a responsible way to run a country? No. But after Republican opposition to all of Obama’s attempts at economic revitalization, we’ve been left with a struggling America. And with people like Romney (who milk the system dry) and Ryan (whose budget plans would’ve given men like Romney a near-zero tax rate) potentially in charge, the comparisons are clear. The Republicans are simply using this opportunity to cash out, passing the debt on to the investor (the American taxpayer) while they sit back and enjoy their bonuses.

ByNicholas Lind

American Political Engagement in the Facebook Age

 

by Nicholas M. Lind

There are sixty days left until we cast our ballots, but whose really counting anyway?  Besides, it’s not as though we’re not  accustomed to the rolling charade of television ads, newspaper analyses, poll updates, and the like, right?  Of course in this cycle the whole performance is a bit different.  For the first time, the modern political campaign has fully embraced social media outlets as a method to foster support and, perhaps more often, as a platform to spread propaganda.

Now to be sure, neither the candidates nor their parties are the most active participants in the worst of the “political memes” spreading through Facebook.  While both candidates do have public Facebook profiles which are carefully managed by campaign strategists (and Obama was praised for implementing social media tactics in the ’08 campaign), most of the real leg work is completed through partisan groups that aren’t affiliated with either party.  These groups are a dime a dozen and range ideologically across the spectrum in all directions.

Plenty can be said regarding the effect these messengers have had on the 2012 election.  For one, it brings a totally new type of information into the political arena.  The meme’s are essentially digital (and viral) campaign posters with various messages.  The simple, straightforward nature of these “advertisements” is often done (as television commercials are) with absolutely no documentation to verify whatever claims may be made, which has arguably opened the door for “fact-checking” journalists to critique or affirm the ideas that are quickly spreading across News Feeds from sea to shining sea.  Furthermore, anyone who uses Facebook easily recognizes them instantly, and their reactions to the tornado of political discourse prove to be an especially striking  finding about American politics.

Facebook has brought political campaigns into living room computers, college dorm desks, browsers on workers breaks, and cell phones everywhere.  The increased exposure (when presented honestly) would ideally serve to inform voters of the issues at hand.  But although these memes have certainly generated significant discussion and debate about the facts, perceptions, and policies surrounding the upcoming election (a healthy outcome for a functioning democracy), they have also been met more recently with indifference, annoyance, and indignation.

In fact, critics have created a program that systematically hides and posts referring to political issues by allowing users to block posts if they include specific words such as, “Obama,” “Romney,” “Republican,” or “Democrat.”  The most popular browser add-on is perhaps the Social Fixer, a free downloadable service that adds custom features to Facebook.

But what are we really advocating for when we dismiss political discussion as a waste of our time or as an inconvenience not quite fit for our everyday digital lives?  A number of friends and followers have recently criticized posts I’ve personally made (not necessarily the substance, but merely the act of posting them) and I have to wonder what the effect of that act is (intended and unintended).

Now look, I understand that not everyone is as politically inclined as readers and writers of this forum, but where do we stand, as a culture, when we begin to criticize someone for simply contemplating the organizations responsible for formally organizing the world around us?  Who are we, as a people, when we turn away from those organizations, losing hope, without proposing an alternative?

It’s bad enough to ignore efforts dealing with public discourse in the twenty-first interconnected global system given the many shortcomings of socioeconomic development around the world.  It’s another matter entirely to criticize those working to find solutions.

Nicholas Lind can be reached at nicholasmlind@gmail.com 

ByRandomology

Limbaugh: Only Care for People Like You

Pictured here? Zero percent humanity.

Rush Limbaugh has never been one to appear cuddly and caring. This week, however, he shed further light on a mentality that sadly permeates the Right.

During a show discussing why Obama is the Other, someone outside of America, Limbaugh let slip the following quote (emphasis mine):

Obama did not grow up in poverty. His grandmother, the typical white woman, worked in a bank. Don’t give me this “down with the struggle” business. He wasn’t down with the struggle, that’s the whole point. You go back to 2008, the Democrats were wringing their hands because he wasn’t authentically black. That’s the reason the Reverend Sharpton had a problem with him, and they wrote the column in the L.A. Times, “the magic Negro.” He wasn’t down with the struggle. He doesn’t have slave blood. You know all that.

In less than two minutes, Limbaugh all but outright stated the Right Wing position in this country: if it doesn’t affect you, don’t get involved and don’t care. According to him, since Obama’s “blackness” comes from another country, not from a family that was here during the Civil Rights Movement or has roots in America’s past, Obama would not care about the struggles of African Americans. He has his own agenda, Limbaugh reminds us.

Going off of this, it does explain why Rush and many on the Right often have trouble understanding the problems of others. They’re white, straight, Christian men. Why should they afford rights to gays? They’re not gay. Why should they care about what women think? They’re not women. Why care about how the poor will eat or fend for their children? The rich don’t have those problems. It’s none of their business. Muslims are being targeted. But they’re Christians, so why care?

In attacking Obama for supposedly not caring for the African American community and not really being “black,” Limbaugh showed one of the classic signs of psychopathy: the inability to empathize with others. This isn’t trivial. Combine this with the fact that he and other hardcore conservatives also show shallowness, superficial emotions, egocentrism, irresponsibility, and antisocial behavior such as a parasitic and criminal mentality like I’ve shown in other articles. What do you get?

An entire political movement made up of people are who quite literally insane.

And no, I’m not using hyperbole. I really do believe Captain Oxycodone and the others like him have severe mental issues. Their inability to understand things like facts and the scientific method also come to mind. I recently also wrote about Ann Romney’s inability to understand other cultures, but you get the picture. This is the difference between conservatives and liberals.

I’m not gay, yet I feel for my gay friends and want the best for them. I’m not a woman, yet I want my female family and friends to be safe and respected, and my heart broke when I discovered some of my friends have been assaulted and will forever carry those wounds with them. I’m not Muslim, but I want them to have the freedom to believe as they wish and practice their faith. I don’t have children, but I want our youth to have access to good education, healthy food, and safe streets.

Asking someone to feel empathy is not a radical liberal call. It’s called being a decent human being, but apparently that’s too much to ask of the Far Right Wing.

ByKarley Ziegler Mott

Thank you, Planned Parenthood.

Last night at the Democratic National Convention, I found myself nodding in agreement with an articulate woman and mother named Libby Bruce. Bruce spoke emphatically about her own experience as a Planned Parenthood patient. She explained her battle with endometriosis and told us how she was able to get medical treatment for her condition that could have robbed her of her fertility.

I had tears in my eyes watching as she shared that she is a mother now because of the care she received at Planned Parenthood. She spoke for many of us. She spoke for me.

Photo credit: demconvention.com

My first time as a Planned Parenthood patient was in 1994. I was nearing the end of my freshman year of college and I was experiencing menstrual cramps so painful that they interfered with my daily life. I knew I should go to the doctor to get checked out. I was 18 and I had insurance, but it was under my father’s plan and I was embarrassed to tell him that I needed to have a “female” exam and ask his permission to make an appointment.

As a full-time college freshman with a work-study job which paid me $4.65 an hour, I knew I needed to find a way to see a doctor. I turned to Planned Parenthood. They used their sliding scale and I was able to see a caring physician who prescribed medication to make my cramps less painful. You see, people have this idea that Planned Parenthood is just for women who want to have abortions and this couldn’t be more wrong. When I went, I was just a college student. I didn’t have a boyfriend. I had never had sex. I just wanted to go on living without horrific cramps for a week out of every month. Because of the compassion and care they showed me, I continued to go there for routine exams while in college.

In the spring of 1997, I was informed that a routine Pap Smear had come back with abnormal results requiring further testing. After some invasive and uncomfortable procedures, I was told that I had cervical cancer.

Can you imagine being not quite 22 years old and learning that you may have something that could prevent you from having babies someday down the road? I was scared. I felt alone. I was out of school and in a full-time job. I was doing what I was “supposed” to do. However, when I started my job, there was a 6 month waiting period for my health insurance to kick in. I was no longer on my father’s insurance plan. There was so much fear and confusion and I was really scared to death.

Planned Parenthood was there for me. I was able to get referrals to specialists. I saw one doctor who made me want to run for the hills because it was suggested I undergo a hysterectomy. I saw another who took a conservative approach to eradicating those unwelcome cells and after my last surgery on September 25, 1997, I have been healthy and I am cured. I am a mother. Yes, I am a mother. And I am so thankful that Planned Parenthood was there for me when I didn’t know where else to turn.

Without Planned Parenthood as a safe haven for low income women to have access to cancer screening and routine exams, I truly believe that I would not be a mother today.

I have two amazing boys, ages 7 and 9. I am a mother because of Planned Parenthood.

I am quite sure there are people right now going through what I went through at that age. And it scares the hell out of me to think that if Mitt Romney ends up being elected president in November that he will be robbing other women of the utter joy that being a mother brings.

You see, Planned Parenthood will cease to exist under a Romney-Ryan administration. On Romney’s website, here is what it says in terms of Planned Parenthood:

“As president, he will end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood.”

Mitt Romney is so out of touch with the real struggles Americans face, especially women. His statement is ridiculous. Planned Parenthood DOES NOT USE FEDERAL FUNDS for abortion. By law, federal funding to Planned Parenthood cannot be used for abortion. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about that fact. IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, Mitt Romney does not care about you. He does not care about people like me who had nowhere else to turn when I was in college. He does not care about the uninsured who need mammograms. Or birth control. Or HIV counseling. Or rape crisis counseling.

Let’s say enough uninformed voters turn up on November 6? It will signify the beginning of the end of Planned Parenthood. What will happen then? What will happen to women who rely on cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood? What will happen to rape victims who turn to Planned Parenthood’s rape crisis counseling services? What will happen then? What will happen to the 3 million people per year who have preventive care at Planned Parenthood?

I have written here before about the War on Women. This issue hits me to the core. I said it before and I will say it again. I do not believe that I would be sitting here with the title of Mom–the most important title I could have–if not for the medical care provided by Planned Parenthood. I will be eternally grateful to this organization. They have provided me with the greatest gift–the gift of my children.

ByRandomology

Ann Romney to Hispanics: You Don’t Get It

I’m not saying Ann Romney is racist. I’m just saying she doesn’t seem to think Latinos are intelligent citizens who deserve equal protection under the law simply because of their skin color and heritage. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Author’s Note: I realize some people prefer the terms “Hispanic” or “Chicano.” I personally refer to myself as “Mexican-American” since I’m a first-generation immigrant. I know we all have our preference, but for the purpose of this article, I’m sticking with Ann Romney’s terminology.

Ann Romney is not running for office, but her recent remarks about the Latino community show the Right’s mentality on minority votes and, on a personal level, showed her contempt for people like me.

At a recent luncheon, Mrs. Romney went on about how Latinos need to understand that the GOP, and her husband in particular, are working in the best interest of Latinos in this country. She gushed over how much damage another Obama presidency will do to us and how we’re just uninformed about current issues and policies.

It’s us, not them, she tells us.

I like to think my arguments are better than just flinging insults or calling names, but I would like to vent a little steam before starting by saying that Ann Romney sounds like any abusive husband on a Lifetime movie telling his battered wife that it’s her fault she’s on the ground doubled over.

Let me explain. Ann Romney said:

“I spoke to women last night and I wanted women to understand how important this election is for their children. But as I was sitting backstage listening, I thought, it’s also very important that the Latino community recognize how important this election is for them.”

I like how she talks about women and mothers and that need to protect the family but seems to think Latinos don’t have those concerns or are somehow different. It sounds like nitpicking her grammar, but it actually makes sense a little later.

“And [Latinos] are mistaken if they think they are going to be better off with Barack Obama as their president. There really is only one way for prosperity, for small business, and that is, this is the simplest way I can say this: If Mitt Romney wins, America wins.”

Mrs. Romney’s assertion that helping small businesses is the best way to help the country falls apart for two reasons. Firstly, she assumes that corporate profits equal social prosperity. They don’t. The top earners in this country have had incredible success in the last several years, but the middle class hasn’t seen significant improvement in THIRTY YEARS. Small businesses are another matter. Yes, they could be doing better, but the self-serving nature of the Romney/Ryan plan is another case. It will hurt not just Latinos, but everyone.

It’s when Mrs. Romney starts talking about why Latinos are specifically deaf to the GOP that I start to put the pieces together.

“You’d better really look at your future and figure out who’s going to be the guy that’s going to make it better for you and your children, and there is only one answer… It really is a message that would resonate well if [Latinos] could just get past some of their biases that have been there from the Democratic machines that have made us look like we don’t care about this community. And that is not true. We very much care about you and your families and the opportunities that are there for you and your families.”

If I may, I would like to address Ann Romney directly.

Mrs. Romney, you smell of beans. The faint aroma of something used to fertilize a garden emanates from your speech.

The reason Latino voters vote Democrat is because the overwhelming majority of Republicans who actually address Latino concerns usually do so in order to profile or discriminate. Arizona’s various laws that target us specifically come to mind. The idea of the border fence, now part of Romney’s plan, was also from the Right. Destroying the DREAM Act, a law that would have granted a path to citizenship to children who did not break the law but were instead brought here by their parents, showed that your party has no interest in immigrants being here at all.

The Republican Party has not just ignored the Latino community, but has instead gone out of its way to even deny we exist.

In Arizona, Chicano studies were taken away under the banner of protecting the people from inflammatory rhetoric. My history, and the fact that Latinos struggled to become part of this country, is now seen as subversive.

Voter suppression proposals hurt minorities and are being pushed specifically because we tend to against you and your ilk.

American citizens have been detained and sometimes deported simply because they were Hispanic. In these cases, they were afforded almost none of the rights any criminal would expect. A suspected murderer would receive more protection under the law than Jose on the Street simply because of skin color or heritage.

My family has certainly adapted. We speak English and Spanish. I myself have worked as a Congressional speechwriter and correspondent, teacher, tutor, blogger, and freelance artist. I have nothing more than a speeding ticket on my record, I pay my taxes, and would consider myself a good citizen.

And yet I have a higher chance of getting arrested due to GOP policies than Romney does for tanking several companies in order to make a profit.

I know, I know. These were not Romney’s policies. Just other members of his party that acted and were not chastised by the Right. What has Mitt Romney, however, done for the Latino community?

Nothing.

Obama hasn’t done much for us either, but that’s mostly because the GOP has obstructed everything he has tried to do, often simply because they don’t want him to win.

Let me be blunt now. Mitt Romney’s policies, and those of his party, will hurt us. They will hurt ALL of us. All this talk about regulation for banks, Super PACS, and all that other stuff is academic for most people. The truth is that my family, friends, and I have to live with these laws targeting us because of our skin and our heritage. They affect us directly. When someone says immigrants are hurting our country, when people shout that we need a border fence or that we need to shoot people crossing illegally, they’re talking about my community…

But it’s nice for the nice, rich white lady to tell me how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Mrs. Romney, THIS is why we don’t vote for your party. You also keep referring to us as “you people.” Please stop it. When you, for example, say things like this:

“I had the most rocking time in Puerto Rico at a political rally than I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Romney said. “You people really know how to party. It was crazy!”

…You’re lumping us together, showing that instead of being seen as a community, we’re a mob. It’s the first step towards racist views. The fact that you don’t want your own son to identify as such speaks volumes.

You’re an adult. I would hope I don’t have to explain something this simple to you.

ByMackenzie Hunt

What’s Wrong With Government?

What does accountability mean to you? To some, it’s an old-fashioned term that’s now defunct. To others, myself included, it’s an extremely important concept. How this is tied to the title of this post – what’s wrong with government? – will be revealed, I promise. But for starters, I’d like to give you a short and vague lesson in British politics and how accountability comes into it. In my country, we do not have separation of powers. There are no executive, legislative and judicial branches. Our equivalent to Congress is Parliament, our House of Representatives is the House of Commons and our Senate is the House of Lords. Members of each House are known as Members of Parliament, or MPs. MPs are elected to the Commons at General Elections and appointed to the Lords by the government. Even the Prime Minister – our equivalent to your President – is an MP. He has a constituency to worry about.

Yes, we elected him. We’re still not sure why.

In order to form a government, a given party needs to win a majority of the seats in the Commons during a General Election. If they don’t, but they still have the largest share, they can either form a minority government (which doesn’t get anything done) or a coalition, like we have now. Coalitions are extremely rare. For decades, we’ve had majority governments, where key ministers in the government are also MPs in the Commons or the Lords. The result of this is that the government in the UK is ridiculously powerful. Because we don’t have a constitution like you good folks in the US, the Prime Minister can direct the MPs in his party (which are in the majority, you see, else he wouldn’t be Prime Minister in the first place) to all vote on a constitutional issue and . . . that’s it. He could dissolve the entire House of Lords in an afternoon if he wanted to. He wouldn’t, because the people don’t want it, but the point is that he could.

He looks a whole lot more malicious now, doesn’t he?

Now, finally, here’s the point: the only people who can remove the Prime Minister from office are his own MPs. He’s not above the law, because they can hold him accountable, but the way they do it is to hold a vote of no confidence. Because passing a vote requires a majority and so does forming a government, it’s technically the government voting itself out of office and calling a General Election.

Back to the USA, where Presidents can be impeached and tried by Congress. Here’s the crux of the matter: Congress doesn’t have to be controlled by the same party that the President belongs to and your whips system, by which Congressmen are goaded into voting a certain way, isn’t nearly as strong as ours. This means that members of the President’s party are far less afraid of holding their President accountable, unlike in England, where votes of no confidence never really happen. In fact, accountability permeates the US political system. Representatives are re-elected to terms of just two years, meaning they have to appease their constituents or they’ll be voted out soon enough. The same goes for Senators, though they enjoy the relative safety of a six-year term. Governors can be recalled, while MPs can’t. Even Presidents, if unpopular, can be rendered powerless by a hostile Congress – even when unpopular, the Prime Minister can still order his party to hold votes and to pass laws.

So, what’s wrong with government? Republicans say it’s too large. They view it as a bloated organism that’s far too big for its own good and is consuming money that should be going into the pockets of the people. I totally and categorically disagree. In the USA, you are blessed with a democracy far truer than we have here in the UK (more on that in subsequent posts). With such an accountable government, what’s the problem? Don’t like your politicians? Vote them out. Are they breaking the law? They’ll be impeached. We can’t even vote out members of the Lords – we just don’t have the right.


Artist’s impression.

I suppose it comes down to your view of what government is for. Republicans see it as a small component of a country that tries some criminals, makes a few laws and little else. But I see it as a tool, the manifestation of the will of the people. It’s a way for a few among a population to control their fellows and still be subject to their approval. It’s the only way for a society to govern itself, a wonderful system that has evolved in almost every corner of the world over thousands of years. So I say what’s wrong with government? So long as it’s accountable, it’s just the people you’ve chosen to tell you what to do doing their job – and what else would you want from them?

Mack.

ByRandomology

Romney Campaign Exposes GOP’s Enemy: Facts

Remember: if you think too hard, you become liberal.

It’s official. The Republican Party, the Grand Old Party, has made it clear that Obama is not their enemy. Who is the enemy?

Critical thinking and facts.

When asked about the thoroughly debunked talking point of “You didn’t build that,” the one where the GOP, led by Fox, claim Obama slammed small businesses, Romney’s people had a very interesting answer. After all, all they’d done was base their campaign pitch on a lie, right?

Their answer? Fact-checking wasn’t important.

This isn’t something trivial. Critical thinking and facts are the basis of growth, both personal and social. They are the basics of science, something a lot of conservatives seem to think is a bad thing going by recent examples, but never has it been more clearly stated.

Facts don’t matter, they say.

It’s not that hard to see how this works to the GOP’s advantage. The Texas GOP tried to ban critical thinking and inconvenient facts in schools. Tennessee pushed a bill that would allow creationism in schools. Bill Nye was booed in Texas for suggesting the moon doesn’t glow, something which creationists find insulting. The entire concept of the scientific method is missing from the GOP brain. When Limbaugh, for example, tries to make the argument that The Dark Knight Rises is an attack on Romney or that Robin Hood would have been a Tea Partier, he is showing the kind of thinking that most educated, mature people learn when they’re in high school.

More recently, the NRA actually came out and said that mass shootings are essential to an “open society,” that it’s not a good idea to ask questions after mass shootings like the ones we’ve experienced the last few weeks.

Remember, this is the same mentality that makes some people kill abortion doctors because life is sacred. This is the same culture that believes the Bible is the infallible word of God, yet charity and sharing are now sins. The ability to think critically is what has given us medicine, the reason we landed on the moon, and the reason you can read this on a screen that manipulates light and is controlled by a small piece of silicon and metal.

Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. The ability to come together and debate issues only happens when we can all agree that REALITY EXISTS. It’s the most basic foundation for an argument, for science, but since the GOP and many conservatives have simply decided that reality doesn’t work for them and they’d rather go with fantasies about anti-rape vaginas and an Arab conspiracy to destroy our country, I guess we can just stop the debate now. After all, with everything that’s happened, it’s obvious that conservatives really are scientifically incapable of understanding reality.

We’d have a better chance of discussing Chaucer with a mentally handicapped tapeworm. At least the tapeworm is more pleasant company.

ByMackenzie Hunt

The View From Across The Pond

Well, this is the first time I’ve written here. For those of you who hear your own voice in your head as you read, you should add an English accent to it, because my view of American politics is one from a great distance: across the pond. Here in Blighty, the few pieces of American news we get are mostly domestic. As I type, the BBC’s homepage is running two stories – one on Hurricane Isaac and one on a book about Bin Laden’s death. I can’t say either terribly interests me.

What does interest me, however, is FOX News’ headline RYAN MISSION: STOKE CAMPAIGN FIRE. Paul Ryan only came to my attention after being chosen to be Mitt Romney’s running-mate and I haven’t seen much of him, but I don’t like any of what I see. I doubt he’d be very popular in England, but then again, partisan divides in England are rendering all politicians unpopular at the moment. Just today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested raising taxes on the rich (which are currently as much as 40%) in order to allow government support for businesses. The Labour Party, the left-wing party that claims to represent the working man, immediately seized on this as simple political points-scoring.

Mr Clegg is apparently putting across popular policies to gain votes. I understand that this is how politics works, but the policies are good. Labour should have proposed them themselves if they care about taxing the rich so much.

 

 For those of you who know British politics, this is ex-Labour leader Gordon Brown. For those of you who don’t, he’s basically that guy you know who refuses to say “I believe in fairies” when you’re watching the end of Peter Pan.

My point (for I am writing somewhat circuitously) is this: in America, there are these great debates on issues that have long since been settled. Abortion, healthcare, civil partnership rights . . . all three are non-issues in Britain and have been or years. Maybe it’s our general lack of intrusiveness, but for any government to dare change policy in a number of social areas would be seen as foolish.

So there you have it: my introduction. I’m dissatisfied with the British political system, which I think is unfair and broken, dissatisfied with the general consensus on so many issues and dissatisfied with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s appalling treatment of women and LGBT people. I don’t believe you have to be female to defend women or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to defend LGBT people – else my opinion would be somewhat hypocritical – but that doesn’t stop the sight of just-past-middle-aged white men forming contraceptive policy from unnerving me slightly. And after all, isn’t Mitt Romney the most just-passed-middle-aged white man there is?

 

That’s right, Mitt. That joke was funny. You don’t think so? I’ll bet you $10,000 someone’s laughing somewhere.

Anyway, I think it’s about time I wrapped up this introduction. I think I’ve made my views pretty clear by now, but feel free to drop me a message if you want some clarification. I’ll try to post at least once a week, hopefully more often – picking out news stories that I feel are worthy of comment and so on. See y’all later!

Mack.

Bypiechartking

The Height of Hubris: “We Built This”

Uninformed, deluded or craven. I think those are your choices if you’re conservative and caught spouting the “We Built This!” nonsense. Forget roads, forget the power grid, forget regulatory schemes, forget all infrastructure – the indisputable reality is that you did not build “this” on your own. Not totally on your own, anyway.

Let’s talk about Cheryl and Eli Valenzuela, who will be speaking this week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The Valenzuela’s own First State Manufacturing (FSM), a successful small business which they started in a garage doing upholstery, but which has subsequently expanded to making other products, like baseball ump vests and vests for the Israeli military.

Cheryl is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention, an ostensible flesh-and-blood embodiment of Republicans’ mantra “We Built This”. The phrase amounts to a rebuke of President Obama’s recent remarks that small business owners didn’t build their business in isolation without help from others. Forget that the remarks have been shamelessly taken out of context for a moment. Forget that, logically, it is impossible for you to build a small business in America totally on your own. Forget that you’re an adult and should know that without me having to write this article to remind you of that basic fact.

No, forget all that and just remember this: What is hilarious to the utmost about Cheryl Valenzuela speaking — as a living example of the “We Built This!” them, mind you—is that the Valenzuela’s didn’t even come close to building it on their own. Subsequent research on FSM, by Justin Acuff at Addictinginfo.org, has revealed the following:
1) The Valenzuela’s’ new 66,000 square-foot facility is funded by a $1.8 million US Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan
2) Eli Valenzuela learned the upholstery trade through correspondence courses in the Army, and he applied what he learned at Dover Air Force Base, upholstering C-5 cargo planes.
3) Before Eli and Cheryl opened their upholstery business in the garage, they first received help and advice from the non-profit SCORE Association and Delaware Small Business Development Center to compose a business plan.
4) FSM was initially funded by a $20,000 guaranteed SBA loan.
5) Eli and Cheryl also became certified in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program.
6) In 2001, FSM received another $96,500 guaranteed SBA loan in order to modernize and expand.
7) After 9/11 and during the ensuing recession, FSM obtained a $65,800 SBA disaster loan to maintain their business and employees until the business climate improved.

Kind of takes the wind out of the “We Built That!” sails, doesn’t it? So, when you’re listening to inane conservative drivel this week about how we all did this “ourselves”, without any help from others; as you watch Republicans strut and chest-bump to “We Built That!” at a convention held in the 62% publicly-financed ($86 million) Tampa Bay Times Forum, keep these little facts as a obvious and commonsense reminder that, no, we didn’t build it all ourselves.

We all need help, and we all are in it together – a fact of life most people know without having to be told. Some of us (Yeah I’m talking to you, conservatives), it seems, are comically uninformed, hopelessly deluded, or just cynically craven, about the “We Built This!” theme.   You pick.