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?