Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Former RNC Chairman Makes It Clear that Limbaugh's Comment About the First Lady Was Racist.

In an era when far-right media personalities continue to push the envelope of racist rhetoric there are still a few comments that faithful defenders of the GOP faithful can't spin.

In the following clip, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele responds to MSNBC's Chris Matthews' question about Rush Limbaugh's comments about the First Lady being booed during a recent NASCAR race in Florida. Kudos to Mr. Steele for leaving no doubt about where he stands on this incident.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Heat Wave 2011: States Cut Programs Helping Families Pay Electric Bills

As the article points out many of the states hit hardest by this summer's heat have drasticall­y cut or eliminated programs that help the poor pay to adequately cool their homes. The cruel paradox of this already deadly scenario is that many of the leaders of these same states have vehemently denied "global warming"; opposed investing in green technology­; and repeatedly & loudly decried "big government­" until of course, a natural disaster strikes.

Now in the face of high unemployme­nt and requests for assistance­, an economy drained by over a decade of war spending, Wall Street manipulati­on, and a lack of tax revenues has left even the most well intentione­d state government­s have been forced to make deep cuts in aid to the poor, the elderly and the most vulnerable­. Recent extreme weather will compound problems by not only posing serious health risks but also by impacting the costs of everything from food to clothing. Due to prolonged drought and scorching heat, crop losses will result in higher prices for everything from beef to corn to cotton.

So what have our political leaders been quibbling about for the past few months: raising the debt ceiling; making cuts to social safety nets like Medicaid & Social Security; and making sure that the rich do not pay a dime more in taxes.

Hopefully, all of this will still be fresh in the minds of the voters in November 2012.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nancy Pelosi: Some In GOP Would Pay China Before Seniors In A Debt Default

So now the Republican­s are accusing President Obama of using scare tactics to advance the argument for raising the debt ceiling. If I recall correctly, when Sarah Palin and the Republican­s were scaring seniors with their "death panel" rhetoric during the health care reform debate I didn't hear Sen. John Cornyn or any of his fellow party members complainin­g about using fear tactics.

The Obama administra­tion should definitely send letters to Social Security and Medicare recipients­, federal employees and, members of our armed forces, advising them that they may not receive their due compensati­on and benefits. Those letters should also advise people to watch carefully how their elected Representa­tive votes.

If the Republican­s think that politics is just a high stakes poker game, let's see how well they play this hand.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, June 3, 2011

How Failed Obama Foreclosure Relief Plan Contributes To Jobs Crisis [UPDATE]

Rep Dennis Cardoza asks the question: "For the life of me, I can't figure out why a community organizer who says he cares about families, who says he cares about communitie­s, has just turned his back on one of the biggest problems in America,”

The answer is simple. Foreclosur­e and/or bankruptcy still carry a stigma in our society. There is a mythology that people facing foreclosur­e are in that position because they: were greedy and tried to buy more house than they could afford; are poor money managers or; were speculator­s who were just flipping houses for profit. Sadly, this mythology is prevalent in both Democrat
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Wheels On the Bus Go Round and Round

The government shutdown has been averted for at least another week and all sides are taking credit for the largest annual budget cut in history. Yet and still factions of The Tea Party are stating that they are ready to primary Speaker John Boehner.

Where does this leave the country? The GOP/Tea Party will come back with more demands next week, a few progressive Democrats will protest and then, there will be another compromise­. As Huffington Post senior political analyst, Howard Fineman stated, President  Obama has been pushed to exactly where he wants to be. He wants to be in the political center.  It is a GOP myth that the President is a liberal and/or a socialist.  Sadly members of both the conservative right and the liberal left have bought into the myth.  However, when 2012 rolls around, Democrats will rally behind the Obama once more. There is no better choice for progressives. 

As Jeffrey Sachs wrote in his post "The People's Budget": "The current budget negotiation­s have been a dialogue among the wealthy. The big debate has focused on which programs for the poor should be axed first. There has been no discussion of raising taxes on the rich, and quite the contrary, the White House and the Republican leadership agreed to further tax cuts last December. Obama has repeatedly expressed regret at slashing community developmen­t, energy support for the poor, and other programs, but he is not fighting the trend, only regretting it."

As Nicholas Kristof posted on Facebook, "A last minute deal to avert a government shutdown has been averted, and I must say that John Boehner proved a tough negotiator who got a lot of what he wanted. But what a wretched, embarrassi­ng way to run a superpower­."

The wheels on the bus go round and round and everyone except the rich get thrown under 

Read Jeffrey Sach's Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Naomi Klein on The Increasingly Risky Behavior of Energy Addicted Nations

On December 8, 2010, Naomi Klein delivered a TED talk at the first-ever TEDWomen conference in Washington, DC.,  during which she raised the question of why our culture is so prone to reckless high-stakes gambles in our pursuit of energy.  

In light of this past weekend's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the renewed calls in the United States for off-shore oil drilling, I have to wonder if we will ever get serious about investing in clean and safe energy solutions.

Just days before giving her Ted talk, Naomi had been on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, looking at the catastrophic results of BP's risky pursuit of oil. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hypocrisy of War

For the past few days, it has been interestin­g listening to the political pundits and foreign policy analysts debate the merits of the interventi­on in Libya. Few, if any, have had the courage to state, as Rev. Wallis has in this post, that the decisions of where and when to use US military force often have less to do with political ideology, humanitari­an concerns or a defined foreign policy than it does with corporate interests.

While I support the President'­s decision to participat­e in the military action in Libya and, to do so only after waiting for the UN resolution­, it would have been fascinatin­g to see the issue debated in Congress, if for no other reason that to see the Republican­s justify the expense. It would have been pure theatre to watch Louie Gohmert rant, Michele Bachmann twist history and Speaker Boehner in tears trying to make an argument that would be the opposite of the President'­s.

Sadly, we will probably have another chance to have this discussion­. We can't always rush to war, can we?
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pennsylvania, Budget Cuts, Nuclear Energy & a State Energy Executive?

While Wisconsin didn't have a budget deficit until Governor Scott Walker created one, Pennsylvania did.  However, as in the case of Wisconsin,  Pennsylvania's newly-elected Republican Governor wants to preserve tax cuts for corporations and balance the state budget by making deep cuts to programs that aid those who need help the most.

As Tami Luhby reported last week for CNN:
"The state is facing a budget gap of more than $4 billion, and its new governor is keeping his promise not to raise taxes to close it. Instead, he is looking for concessions from public employees and for cuts from a wide array of agencies. Also, some 1,500 positions would disappear in the budget that cuts overall spending by 3%.
The governor is leaning hard on education -- both K-12 and college level. Together, these suck up 38% of the state budget.
Corbett is asking teachers to freeze their salaries for a year, saying it would save $400 million, and he wants school districts to be allowed to furlough employees during tough budget times.
But he still plans to cut $550 million from basic education funding. He is also looking to reduce state mandates and promote school choice. And he wants to allow voters to rule on property tax hikes school districts may propose to make up for state funding cuts.
The state university system would see its state funding slashed $271 million, while Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln universities would lose half of their funding. 
The governor also said he will be looking for salary roll-backs and freezes from the state's 62,000 employees, as well as having them pay more for health care. And he wants to start discussions on fixing the pension system, which could mean higher contributions or less generous benefits."

Until last week, those cuts may have been seen as the most troubling items in the Governor's proposed budget.  But as Rachel Maddow pointed out on her March 11th broadcast, there is a not widely reported element in the Governor's plan that may have far greater and potentially dangerous consequences, his plan to appoint a state energy executive.

As the Pennsylvania Environment Digest reports: 

As part of his campaign platform, Gov.-elect Tom Corbett laid out a series of commitments on protecting the environment, developing Pennsylvania's energy resources, enhancing agriculture and promoting sportsmen's  issues.
 Tom Corbett’s energy plan has five core areas: 
-- Growing Our Energy Infrastructure;
-- Encouraging Renewable, Alternative; Clean Energy in Pennsylvania;
-- Cultivating Pennsylvania’s Coal Resources; and
-- Transitioning to Competitive Markets.
            Harnessing Pennsylvania’s energy potential to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make energy affordable for all
Sounds great doesn't it.  Until you read a little further and find out what the Governor means by "Transitioning to Competitive Markets."  
"As Governor, Tom Corbett will issue an immediate Executive Order to designate a senior advisor within the Governor’s office to serve as the state Energy Executive, who will be charged with coordinating the overall state energy policy, utilizing expertise within the relevant agencies of state government."

As I mentioned, this was the topic of discussion on a recent broadcast of the Rachel Maddow Show.  On March 11th, Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica joined Rachel to discuss how the aforementioned provision in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's budget could give authority over the state's environmental permitting process to an energy executive.  The proposal would give C. Alan Walker, the head of the Department of Community and Economic Development, the unprecedented authority to "expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted" - including coal, oil, gas and trucking.

( and nuclear power plants ?)

I'm sure that you see where I'm going with this.

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission study released less than a year ago ranked Exelon Nuclear's Limerick Generating Station, (a nuclear energy plant located in southeastern Pennsylvania, about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia in Montgomery County), as being the nation's nuclear plant that is at the third highest risk of being damaged by an earthquake.  The study also reveals that of the top 10 nuclear plants most at risk from earthquake damage, three are in Pennsylvania, more than any other state.

Limerick has two General Electric boiling water reactor (BWR) units, cooled by natural draft cooling towers similar to but slightly newer than the reactors in Fukushima, Japan.  Limerick has Mark II reactors instead of the Mark I's in Fukushima.  Limerick reactors 1 and 2 were licensed in 1984 and 1989, respectively. Nuclear energy plants in the United States are licensed to operate for 40 years which reflects the amortization period generally used by electric utility companies for large capital investments.  But 40 years in the world of nuclear physics may not be the same as 40 years on Wall Street. 

Are nuclear reactors meant to last 40 years?
Is it like comparing dog years to human years?

And what happens if a Governor gives a non-elected representative from the private sector the power to expedite nuclear power plant licenses ( for the sake of corporate profits) even if another government agency prohibits it?

Until these questions are answered, Governor Corbett's plan to appoint a State Energy Executive is deeply trooubling

The following is a video clip of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) speaking to Ed Schultz on licensing nuclear power plants. 

Good luck Rep. Kucinich and thank you for being a voice of reason.

Thankfully God Is Not As Prejudiced As Some of His People

graphic by Tim Nyberg
In the days since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan,  the world has marveled at the calm and courage of the Japanese people.  Their sense of unity has truly been an example to all of us.

Conversely,  the very same tragedy has, as many recent natural disasters have, brought out the ugly face of Christianity, people, identifying themselves as Christians, who can't resist making the most ignorant, hateful and un-Christlike comments.    I will not repeat these hateful comments because I'm sure that you've all heard them.  I am writing this post hoping that it might just encourage a few of the spewers of this hateful rhetoric to take the time to pick up a bible, read it, and realize the ignorance of their comments.

For the record:  GOD IS NOT MAD OR PUNISHING ANYONE!  In fact God has not been in the business of punishing mankind since, ...

oh let me see, ....

since the birth of Jesus.

Yes, the God of the Old Testament did dish out a little righteous wrath on more than one occasion.   However, isn't it amazing that so many of the same people who complain every year about a "war on Christmas"  conveniently forget the Christmas message. 

Let's review basic tenets of the Christianity.  I'll begin with what is probably the most recognized bible verse in the world.

 The Gospel of John, Chapter 3, verses 16 & 17

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  New King James Version

or as it reads in The Mesage Bible 
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Doesn't sound like a God who just can't wait to dose out a earthquake or hurricane to me.

Then there's the Christmas story itself:

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 8-14
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
        “ Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  New King James Version

Gee, that doesn't sound like a God who wants to kill thousands of people.

In fact Jesus himself warned us about trying to play God by judging others.
  “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 
Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."  The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-5

And lastly, as we approach the holiest of seasons in the Christian faith, let's remember that Jesus died and paid the price for the sins of ALL mankind.  Therefore God is not angry with mankind, just read the New Testament.

Of course, there is much more to the Christian faith.  But these are the basics.

Oh, there is one more that I'll share now:
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12: verses, 28-30

So Christians please stop saying stupid things in times of crisis. And please, please stop lying on God and pretendng that he shares your prejudices. 

Related posts:

Some People Think Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami are Payback for Pearl Harbor, Really
by Gil Asakawa for Huffington Post

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's Aide Resigns Over Japan Remark

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Florida Loses $2.4 Billion For High-Speed Trains

"The project, which would have connected Tampa and Orlando with high-speed trains, was rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican­. He said he didn't want to obligate the state to pay for what could be expensive operating costs for the line. However, the Florida DOT shows the line connecting Tampa to Orlando would have had an operating surplus in 2015, its first year of operation.­"

So Gov. Scott does not want the expense of operating a train line that would provide the thousands of minimum wage employees as well as the tourists of Florida's theme parks a less expensive mode of travel. Maybe he just doesn't want Floridians to spend less on gasoline, have fewer highway accidents or breath cleaner air. Or just maybe Gov. Scott is more concerned about the 2012 Presidenti­al election than he is about the residents of Florida. Hmm!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Blagojevich Moment

Early today Associated Press reported:

"A prank caller pretending to be billionaire conservative businessman David Koch was able to have a lengthy conversation with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about his strategy to cripple public employee unions, the governor's office confirmed Wednesday.

On the call, Walker joked about bringing a baseball bat to a meeting with Democratic leaders, said it would "be outstanding" to be flown out to California by Koch for a good time after the battle is over, and said he expected the anti-union movement to spread across the country."

The following audio was posted on the website of the Buffalo Beast, a progressive newspaper based in New York"

And somewhere Rod Blagojevich is saying "C'mon man" and laughing his fanny off.  If this audio isn't indicative of peddling political influence, I don't know what is.

Of course, while this prank may be funny, the situation in Wisconsin is no laughing matter.  Neither is the blatant attempt to demonize public workers and unions.
As the very proud daughter of a retired Pennsylvania school teacher whose commitment to her students was as strong as the postal worker's creed; who had to work a second job to help me through college; and, whose health was ruined when her school system decided that the lead based paint needed to be scraped from the walls of her school while school was still in session, I am offended by the attempts to penalize the people who educate, heal and protect our society.

While Republicans, like Wisconsin State Rep. Scott Suder when interviewed by Andrea Mitchell, will try to dismiss this call as a cheap trick, I submit that the Buffalo Beast simply borrowed a page from James O'Keefe's playbook.  Let's see if Fox News will give this audio clip as much coverage as they did the so-called ACORN video. 

it is clear that the prevailing strategy of Governor Walker and his fellow Republican governors is NOT to address the real issues of job creation, corporate greed, and a depressed housing market but instead do the bidding of their corporate masters and lay the rails for the 2012 Presidential election by any means necessary.    

By the way,  when my mother's health was adversely affected by the painting of her school, she didn't sue.  She simply retired and is living on her social security and her pension.  The pension that governors like NJ's Chris Christie want to cut.

Monday, February 21, 2011

'Sarah Palin's Alaska' To Receive $1.2 Million In Tax Credits

OK, now I understand Tea Party economics.

First you run for governor of Alaska. Then you sign a bill into law which will give generous tax breaks to film and TV production companies that film in your state. Next, resign your position as governor after two years. Then quickly sign a deal for a reality TV show which will be produced in your state and benefit from the bill which you signed into law. The production company then receives a $1.2 million in tax credits which they have the option of selling to other companies for 80 to 90 cents of the dollar.

Now that's much better that encouragin­g women to breast feed in order to improve their health and fight childhood obesity.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

"As Nero burned Rome, the government is trying to burn Egypt," said bookstore owner Aza al-Hadary, 63. "It's a dirty plan. Mubarak is in a corner and he doesn't want to leave."

From the Washington Post article:

Egyptian soldiers show solidarity with protesters, activist ElBaradei joins demonstrations

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When Should I Believe You? - an ode to political discourse in America

Note: the following poem is not intended to insult or libel any one individual or political party. 

When you said that "Muslims attacked the US on 9/11", was I supposed to believe you?

When you said that "Saddam Hussein and Iraq were somehow behind the terrorist attacks", was I supposed to believe you?

When you said "Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to our nation's security", was I supposed to believe you? 

When you showed me images depicting terrorists hiding behind every bush, was I supposed to believe you?  Was I supposed to be afraid?

When you said that anyone who did not agree with your plans to keep us safe was "anti-American", "unpatriotic" or " did not support the military", was I supposed to believe you?  

When you said that a presidential candidate was not a "real American hero" when he spoke out against a war which he felt was unjust, was I supposed to believe you?  

When you said that the candidate's words were "aiding and abetting the enemy", was I supposed to believe you?  

When you said that you were not wiretapping ordinary citizens, was I supposed to believe you?  

When you said that "America does not torture" and that you were "shocked by the pictures from Abu Ghraib", was I supposed to believe you?

When you later said that another presidential candidate was a Muslim, was I supposed to believe you? 

When you said that he hates white people and attends a church that hates white people, was I supposed to believe you?

When you said that a presidential candidate supported a group called ACORN that was trying to steal our elections, was I supposed to believe you? 

When you said that this candidate wanted to take money from "Joe The Plumber" and redistribute it to people who will not work,  was I supposed to believe you?  

When you said that this presidential candidate pals around with terrorists, was I supposed to believe you?

When you said that he  wasn't born in the United States and isn't a citizen, was I supposed to believe you? 

When you said that he has a socialist or communist agenda, was I supposed to believe you?

When you said that he wants to create death panels for our grandparents, was I supposed to believe you? 

When you said that he wants to take away my money, my guns, my country and put mosques on every corner, was I supposed to believe you?  

When you told me that I am in danger, that I am not safe, was I not supposed to be afraid? 

When you said that "he" is not "one of us", was I supposed to believe you?

You said that he is a member of a religion that wants to destroy my way of life.  He hates me for my race.  He pals around with terrorists.  He wants to take away my money, my guns, and my freedoms.  He wants to kill my grandparents. He is not one of us. 

When you told me to reload, to remember second amendment remedies, to become armed and dangerous, what do you think I heard?  

You tell me that YOU love peace and hate violence, am I supposed to believe you?

You tell me, "No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults."

Am I supposed to believe that you believe this?   Or, am I supposed to believe that you want me to believe this? 

Was I supposed to believe that the President took a trip to India that cost the American taxpayers $200 million a day?  Was I supposed to believe that a tenth of the naval fleet was with him?

Am I supposed to believe that the Obama administration is corrupt and needs to be investigated?

Did I imagine these insults?  Or, did you imagine your facts?

Am I supposed to believe that you didn't mean any of those other things? Or, am I supposed to believe that you did?

Am I supposed to believe that I should never really believe you?

Nearly 50 Percent Of Mental Health Services Recipients In Giffords' County Were Dropped In 2010

"Under Arizona law, any one of Jared Lee Loughner's classmates or teachers at Pima Community College so concerned about his increasing­ly bizarre behavior could have contacted local officials and asked that he be evaluated for mental illness and potentiall­y committed for psychiatri­c treatment. "

Knowing this fact makes this situation even more tragic. Regardless of the cuts in mental health funding over the past year, it seems that Jared Lee Loughner simply fell through the cracks. Those closest to him failed to get him the help that it now appears obvious that he needed. But hindsight is 20/20. Maybe his family, friends and/or classmates thought that reporting him would be cruel. Maybe they were afraid of him. Or maybe, they just didn't want to get involved. Hopefully, this will remind us all that when we fail to be our brother's keeper, our lack of care could come back to haunt us.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Death and Life Are In The Power of the Tongue

Most Christian, Jews, and other persons of faith are familiar with those words which are found in the book of Proverbs Chapter 18, verse 21.   

The entire verse reads:

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
      And those who love it will eat its fruit
."  -- New Kings James Version 

or as another Bible translation reads: :

"Words kill, words give life;
   they're either poison or fruit—you choose."  -- The Message

Yes, those words of wisdom from the Old Testament are familiar to most people of faith but sadly they are words that are seldom heeded until the aftermath of a tragedy.  Such was the case yesterday.

As I write this, CNN is reporting that 6 people are dead and 12 injured in a mass shooting in Arizona and their news anchors and political pundits are being careful about drawing any ties between the shooting an the current political climate. 

However, New York Times, Columnist Matt Bai was not so careful in his column, "A Turning Point in the Discourse, but in Which Direction?" and wrote:

"Within minutes of the first reports Saturday that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and a score of people with her had been shot in Tucson, pages began disappearing from the Web. One was Sarah Palin’s infamous “cross hairs” map from last year, which showed a series of contested Congressional districts, including Ms. Giffords’s, with gun targets trained on them. Another was from Daily Kos, the liberal blog, where one of the congresswoman’s apparently liberal constituents declared her “dead to me” after Ms. Giffords voted against Nancy Pelosi in House leadership elections last week.

Odds are pretty good that neither of these — nor any other isolated bit of imagery — had much to do with the shooting in Tucson. But scrubbing them from the Internet couldn’t erase all evidence of the rhetorical recklessness that permeates our political moment. "
Bai further writes: 
"Modern America has endured such moments before. The intense ideological clashes of the 1960s, which centered on Communism and civil rights and Vietnam, were marked by a series of assassinations that changed the course of American history, carried out against a televised backdrop of urban riots and self-immolating war protesters. During the culture wars of the 1990s, fought over issues like gun rights and abortion, right-wing extremists killed 168 people in Oklahoma City and terrorized hundreds of others in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park and at abortion clinics in the South.

What’s different about this moment is the emergence of a political culture — on blogs and Twitter and cable television — that so loudly and readily reinforces the dark visions of political extremists, often for profit or political gain. It wasn’t clear Saturday whether the alleged shooter in Tucson was motivated by any real political philosophy or by voices in his head, or perhaps by both. But it’s hard not to think he was at least partly influenced by a debate that often seems to conflate philosophical disagreement with some kind of political Armageddon.

The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.

Consider the comments of Sharron Angle, the Tea Party favorite who unsuccessfully ran against Harry Reid for the Senate in Nevada last year. She talked about “domestic enemies” in the Congress and said, “I hope we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Then there’s Rick Barber, a Republican who lost his primary in a Congressional race in Alabama, but not before airing an ad in which someone dressed as George Washington listened to an attack on the Obama agenda and gravely proclaimed, “Gather your armies.”

Let us not forget conservative radio show host  and onetime choice for Chief of Staff to now Rep. Allen West [R-FL], Joyce Kaufman who once commented in reference to undocumented workers:  "If you commit a crime while you're here, we should hang you and send your body back to where you came from, and your family should pay for it."

Now our nation has once again been shaken by what the late Robert F Kennedy described as "the mindless menace of violence" and we must examine the cause and effect of violence and political rhetoric and imagery..

 Of course most rational people will not blow up a federal building; shoot a doctor who performs abortions; try to assassination a political figure; or, randomly attack the homeless or people who appear to be illegal immigrants or Muslims,   But are the rest of us responsible for not feeding their illness.

Since we all recognize that there will always be the mentally ill, the bigoted and the easily impressionable  in our society are not individuals who run around spouting rhetoric about "second amendment remedies" and using images of politicians in crosshairs every bit as guilty for inciting the violent actions of the mentally ill as the person who yells fire in a crowded theater is for inciting a riot?  If a person yells fire in a crowded theater and as a result, people are trampled to death in a rush to leave that theater, did the action of shouting, "FIRE" cause the deaths?    So, while Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Joyce Kaufman and their ilk may never whisper instructions in the ear of a would be killer, could it be that their rhetoric is all the affirmation that a mentally ill person needs to carry out a violent act?

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said, "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," the sheriff said. "And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Yes, words have power.  They can be the seeds for actions and sometimes they produce strange fruit..

So what do you and I do?  Marianne Williamson gives shared this thought  on her blog:
"Life is a serious business, and to whatever extent we haven't been playing it seriously, let tonight be the night when we awaken from our stupor and decide to be a player in the healing of our world.

Among other things, let's look deeply at how easy it is for deranged people to get guns not only in Arizona, but in other places in our country as well. If you feel this isn't right -- that it isn't safe for us or for our children -- then know the only way we will override the resistance of the National Rifle Association is if we ourselves get involved in the effort. THe NRA is right that guns don't kill people -- that people do. But with so many unstable people out there, there is no rational reason for us to make it so easy for them.
May those who died in today's massacre rest in peace. They have done what they came to do this lifetime, and it is time for them to sleep.

But for the rest of us, it is time to wake up. To pray yes, but also to act. To think deeply, but also to speak powerfully. To feel concern, but also to act with courage. God's blessing doesn't just mean that He does something for us; it also means that He does something through us. And now is the time to let Him. God bless Arizona, God bless America and God bless us all."

Friends and fellow bloggers, decide to be a player in the healing of the world.  Your words have power so decide now, what type of fruit do you want to bear. 

I leave you now with  "The Mindless Menace of Violence - A Speech by Robert F Kennedy"

Friday, January 7, 2011

The 112th Congress is in Session, Are You Scared Yet?

Okay, the word "scared" may be a little too dramatic so I'll ask, "Have you seen anything over the past few days that has given you cause for concern?" 

No, I'm not referring to the new House Speaker's over-sized gavel or his displays of emotion.  I'm referring to the perplexing and, in some cases, frightening Congressional Committee Assignments. 

Let's start with Rep. Michele Bachmann [R-MN-6]'s assignment to the House Intelligence Committee.   Yes, this is the same Michele Bachmann who claimed that the President's trip to India last November was costing taxpayers $200 million a day. The same Representative who suggested that the media investigate Democratic Party members of Congress for un-American beliefs.   But of course that's old news by now.

So let's consider Rep. Darrell Issa {R-CA-49], the new Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  The wealthiest member of Congress has started his tenure by calling the Obama administration corrupt and promising months and months of hearings and investigations. That ought to get the economy moving again.

Then there's Rep. Viriginia Foxx [R-NC-5]'s assignment to the Chair of the House Sub-Committee on Higher Education.   When questioned during an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, about whether she supported the president's ambitious graduation goal for community colleges, Rep. Foxx said she was "curious to find out what the basis is for the claim that we have to graduate five million more people."  The article further quotes her as stating, "I don't think the measure of success of a community college is always graduation," she said. "Many times, all people need to learn is a skill and perhaps get certification in an area."     

So I ask,  Ms. Foxx, where are all the "skilled labor" jobs in the state of North Carolina, a state where the banking industry moved in and manufacturing and other industries left for foreign shores?

Ms. Foxx is also no fan of the legislation that reformed the student loan program.  The Chronicle of Higher Education article quotes her as saying that the bill "eliminated choice, competition, and innovations from student lending," and promising hearings aimed at making "improvements to a very flawed law."

What was it that the "birther" said when she interrupted the reading of The Constitution, "Jesus Help Us!"

And then there's the appointment of Rep. Ralph Hall [R-TX-4], who as the Wall Street Journal  pointed out, "at age 87, was born before commercial radio really came on the market, to Chair of the House Science and Technology Committee.  

In all fairness, the Wall Street Journal article also pointed out that "the ranking Democrat on the committee is Eddie Bernie Johnson, a fellow Texan, who at age 75 was born before Amelia Earhart disappeared."  The article quotes Rep. Johnson as saying, "There is a wisdom that comes with greater years, But sometimes in Congress that isn't the case with everyone. We'd be better off with picking chairmen on the basis of who has the best ideas and vision rather than longevity."

Rep. Johnson, I couldn't agree more.

During Thursday's broadcast of the Rachel Maddow Show,  Rachel took a close look at the assignments of Reps. Foxx and Hall.  Needless to say,  I didn't sleep well after this. 

Of course, these committee assignments are a reflection of an overall agenda to repeal what the GOP & Tea Party have labeled as "the Obama Agenda".  Not only do they want to repeal health care reform, banking reform and student loan reform. They're against establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and birthright citizenship..  In fact, it seems like they are slowing trying to return us to the 19th century.  

Over the course of the past few months, we've heard MS Gov. Haley Barbour praise "Citizen's Councils" and the good folk of South Carolina celebrate the Confederacy's secession from the Union.  We also heard a sitting Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Scalia say that the 14th amendment doesn't protect against discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. 

Friends, I ask you again, "Are You Scared Yet?" Better yet, are you outraged?