Friday, August 5, 2011

I was in the process of working on an absolutely brilliant post about the debt ceiling debate and the lack of progressive voice in the discussion but someone beat me to it. It's really a shame too, I had found wonderful graphics to illustrate my points and there is a great chance that it may have become an over-night sensation and changed the entire tone of discourse in the United States.

Shame on you, Dan Froomkin,
for depriving the world of this genius.
I may wind up writing more about the subject but Dan hit many of the important points I intended to address, mainly that the discussion was between a conservative group of politicians who wanted to cut federal spending in an attempt to lower the deficit and a group of more conservative politicians who wanted to cut federal spending more in an attempt to lower the deficit. Missing entirely from the discussion was the voice asking why we're trying to cut spending during a recovery that is looking more and more like a recession every day.

Look at this creepy socialist.
He's such a tax and spend liberal.
In a discussion with someone about this topic I mentioned that domestic federal spending, with the recent budget deal, has returned to the level as a percentage of the GDP that it was at in the 1950s when Eisenhower was president. I was then asked why I wanted the government to take more money from the economy than it did when Ike was president. I'll put aside the fact that the top tax rate when Ike was elected was 92% and 91% when he left office while the highest burden of federal tax today is 35%. I will rather make an appeal to reason.

All I want is economic policy that is based upon facts rather than fear-mongering, flawed ideology and feelings. I want it to be based upon things we know, facts. For example:

1. We know that markets hate uncertainty. Uncertainty is almost always a major indicator of a flailing economy, I haven't made a stringent effort to look for one but I've never known of an economist who would argue against this.

2. We know that battles over raising/lowering taxes, cutting/growing government and deficits create uncertainty within markets.

3. We know that raising taxes certainly has an effect on business owners, corporations, ie. everyone who hires anyone. We can argue over how much of an effect but to deny that taxation affects business is ludicrous.

4. We also know that cutting government spending has an economic effect, namely raising unemployment and removing from the economy the money that those government employees, now unemployed, would have made as pay. Again, we can argue about how much effect this has on an economy but it is impossible to argue that it doesn't have an effect.

It only makes sense, then, that we avoid these things that we know will hurt the economy and do something instead that we know will improve it, to create jobs. The government only has two means of creating jobs, cutting taxes or creating government jobs. The first has already been tried with little to no positive effect on the economy in the Bush tax cuts. It only makes sense then to get unemployed people working again, and imagine that, there's plenty for them to do. Our roads, parks and electrical infrastructure are in a catastrophic state of disrepair, public transportation in the form of high-speed rail is looking to be an efficient and relatively inexpensive way to get people where they want to be fast and that is only a small part of what work there is needing to be done.

It's a good thing we're not trying to find
work for plastic surgeons, no more
work needs to be done on this.
A temporary public works program would get money in people's pockets, lessen the unemployment problem and pump much-needed cash back into the economy. It helped the last time it was tried, we've little reason to think that it won't work again some 75 years later.

I suppose it'll also be necessary to explain why the budget deficit and national debt are unimportant distractions in our current situation but that is for another time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's in a name?

The title of an article in sources of news can be very telling as to the point of view from which that news establishment is coming at with each story that they publish. This was made very clear to me today in seeing the different ways in which different news organizations have covered the recent information brought forward about Guantanamo Bay.

Perhaps I'm strange in feeling this way but to me the most important aspect of the story was the large number of detainees who were completely innocent of any charges for which they were being held and apparently the only actual news organization that agrees is Al Jazeera, with their video segment titled, "Most Guantanamo Prisoners Were No Threat."

Contrast that against the Sydney Morning Herald who decided instead to go with, "Guantanamo 'freed many high-risk inmates'." This is still an important aspect of the story though I don't understand how letting high-risk people go is worse than unconstitutionally jailing innocent people without any kind of rights to due process. It is definitely coming from a different ideological perspective than the Al Jazeera story.

The most bizarre one was the Fox News title for their story on the situation, "U.S. Officials Condemn Release of Secret Guantanamo Files." So according to Fox News the important story isn't the unconstitutional holding of innocent people or the release of people who have gone back to commit terrorist acts from Guantanamo, the story is instead that Wikileaks has the gall to tell us that these things are happening.

We live in strange times here in the states.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Obama & I are Ineligible to be President

I had thought that this debate had ended long ago and that the birthers had finally been driven back to their darkened conspiracy-ridden holes where they belong, but a conversation I had recently with an important person in my life made it abundantly clear that this is not the case. Otherwise normal people still remain convinced that our President is a foreign born Muslim, a belief that is troubling to me, not because people hold it, but rather because it remains so widespread. Apparently this myth still needs debunking, so here is an abundance of proof to put it to rest, at least among those who are acquainted with me, but first, how the eff did this come up?

I recently needed a copy of my birth certificate for completely unrelated reasons and, in a dinner conversation talking about it, made an off-hand joke about how I can't be a presidential candidate in Arizona. The bill there won't go anywhere but it's still unsettling that there is a group of people out there attempting to make it impossible for Americans born in many states other than Arizona to be put on the presidential ballot. As there is no witness or physician signature on my own birth certificate, though I assure you I was born in the United States and not in Kenya (unlike Luke Skywalker), I would not be able to appear as a candidate for President on an Arizona ballot if Republicans had their way. Shockingly (to me anyway) one of my dinner companions announced that Obama wasn't born in the United States, that the birth certificate listed on Obama's campaign website was a fake, the Governor of Hawaii had discovered that Obama was foreign born and covered it up, and that the President was even willing to call himself a Muslim. Until this point I had thought that birthers were all some sort of sufferers from a bizarre mental illness but this conversation shattered that notion, this is a person I respect and admire who had been taken in by this ridiculous myth. So here I am, back to attempting to beat back this lunacy once again.

The birth certificate that Obama's campaign put on the internet was indeed a verified certificate of birth, as verified by,, and the Hawaii Department of Health just to name a few. You can see for yourself here or here. As Politifact noted, "If this document is forged, a U.S. senator and his presidential campaign have perpetrated a vast, long-term fraud. They have done it with conspiring officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, the Cook County (Ill.) Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Illinois Secretary of State's office, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois and many other government agencies."
Not only would they have had to conspire among all of those agencies, they would have had to travel back in time to notify two Hawaii newspapers of the fake Hawaiian birth of our future President. Either that or his parents would have to be part of a conspiracy to, for some reason, foresee that their son would one day be President and commit this fraud so that he may, over 40 years later, perpetrate their evil intentions to change the United States healthcare system and ...not raise taxes.

Any rational person can see that this whole idea is ridiculous, but the reasons behind it aren't so clear. There have been challenges to other Presidents' eligibility before but there's one looming reason why this particular President would have both his nationality and religion questioned, completely disregarding all available evidence to the contrary, and that is his race.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is everyone really entitled to their own opinion?

Tobold posted an interesting blog post today about the everlasting controversy over whether or not bloggers are considered journalists and to what standards bloggers should be held, I highly suggest reading it to anyone interested in blogging. I'm more interested in something he mentioned offhandedly in his blog, in which he was able to put into words a concept which I've had a hard time explaining recently. He said, "By definition for opinions there is no absolute truth, an opinion can't be right or wrong (although the arguments supporting an opinion can be)."

Many people, when I tell them that their opinion is wrong, attempt to make the argument as stated in the first part of Tobold's statement, that an opinion by definition cannot be right or wrong. The problem with this thinking is exactly as he so eloquently put it in the second part, if the arguments supporting an opinion are false that invalidates that opinion as something that should taken for consideration. Someone may hold the opinion that automobiles are operated by hard-working gnomes under the hood that take directions from the driver's interaction with the steering wheel and pedals but the premises for that opinion are demonstrably false, invalidating the opinion as well. Well, what is my point?

My point is that oftentimes the media treats two sides of an argument equally because both sides are "just opinions" and opinions cannot be false. The problem with this kind of reporting is that, in many instances, one or both of the opinions are based on premises that can be proven false beyond any doubt and yet they are still often reported on as if the opinion remains valid in some way; as if a rational person with evidence may hold that point of view without contradicting reality. This kind of reporting is passed off in every major media outlet as well-balanced and accurate, however never addresses the factual problems inherent in the opinions at the base of the argument. The media needs to acknowledge when there are factual contradictions behind an opinion and stop reporting it versus an opposing idea as if they were equals. They are not and treating them so is as dishonest as the people coming up with these opinions.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck: The ideological inheritor of the civil rights movement?

The (in)famous Glenn Beck led a rally yesterday at the National Mall on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial under the name of “Restoring Honor” along with Sarah Palin, among other guests, and it just so happened that the date of this rally happened to be the anniversary of the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the most well known and oft-quoted “I have a Dream” speech. Beck has claimed that the date shared by the two events is simply a coincidence however this hasn't stopped him from claiming that his rally is a continuation of the ideals and intentions for which the civil rights marchers fought and of which Dr. King spoke on that day forty-seven years ago. He claims that the civil rights movement has been hijacked by radicals away from the ideals of its progenitors and that Beck and other conservatives are reclaiming it and restoring it to its original intent.

It doesn't take a historian to figure out that Beck is full of it but the large gathering of people at the event (conservative estimates put the attendance at around 200,000 while the event organizers themselves give a number of 500,000) and the rhetoric used by both those supporting and opposed to yesterday's march have me convinced that the 1963 march on Washington and the civil rights movement itself are not widely understood by the American public today. This poses a serious problem for the future of this nation, as if we do not correctly understand what the civil rights struggle was about we cannot understand how successful it was in obtaining its goals. Our praise of Dr. King and the other civil rights leaders become hollow and devoid of meaning without understanding their intentions or the ways in which they wanted their ideals to be fulfilled.

One thing that really gets to me is the way in which the civil rights movement has been packaged into a nice neat little bundle that is easy to swallow and completely lacking in controversy. It has become a snippet of Dr. King's speech in which children are taught that the civil rights movement was about people not being, “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This alternate history that nearly every student across the United States learns today discounts the radical nature of the civil rights movement and even Dr. King himself, turning them into bland and uninteresting caricatures. The truth is that these people were radicals, they were fighting for radical ideals, and many of those ideals that they fought for are still considered radical by today's standards. The twisted history that is taught today says that these men and women were moderate voices, that the radicals were organizations such as SNCC and the Black Panther Party, yet when one looks at the facts nothing can be further from the truth. I can guarantee that Dr. King and Beck would not have seen eye to eye on much of anything if they were to meet, Beck would call King a radical, a socialist and a man too dangerous to “American ideals” to follow.

Part of the goals of the civil rights movement was certainly what is talked about today, in ending the racial violence that ruled this country for nearly its entire existence, in ending segregation, and in putting an end to the rule of Jim Crow across the South. But this was not the entirety of the movement, only a small portion of it. Look at the signs from the 1963 march. Look at the name of the march itself. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of the largest goals of King and his colleagues was to end poverty, not only for those of his own race but for all. King said on that day, speaking about the legacy of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, “One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.” King was partially speaking of segregation, but also speaking of the economic conditions of black Americans throughout the nation, a situation that has remained difficult for black Americans today. King did not want a "color-blind" society as most Americans seem to believe, he wanted instead an equitable America. With African American college graduates twice as likely to be out of work as white college graduates, if King had lived he would come to the conclusion that government needs to play a bigger role in solving this inequality that continues today, not a smaller role as suggested by Beck or any of the other conservative (and many liberal) voices out there. In marching to end poverty on this and many other occasions King wasn't suggesting tax cuts for the wealthy and wasn't suggesting that the government played too large a roll in people's economic activities. At the rally yesterday Sarah Palin said, “We must not fundamentally transform America as some would want; we must restore America and restore her honor.” The civil rights movement was a movement intended for exactly the opposite, to transform America and to bring the nation into honor and out of the horror that it had been for millions of people throughout its history. The honor that Palin and Beck wish to restore was not seen as honor to those in the civil rights movement, it was seen as oppression and a system which was stacked against them.

The terrifying thing to me is that Glenn Beck's interpretation of history isn't a new or extreme interpretation, it is the way that many Americans see the civil rights movement, both on the left and the right of the American political spectrum, and the way in which many students across the nation are taught about this part of our history. They see the implementation of “color-blind” legislation as a laudable goal that continues the success of the civil rights movement and has created a post-racial America, in which racism is no longer a major problem for our society. An America in which cab drivers are under the threat of being stabbed for being Muslim, in which black and Latino drivers are far more likely than whites to be searched at a traffic stop while whites are far more likely to be guilty when searched, in which African Americans are far more likely to be unemployed and looking for work, and in which African American women are even discriminated against in the dating world; this is not a post-racial America. The concept of “color-blindness” only benefits those who have nothing to worry about in regards to the color of their skin. For those who have been, and continue to be, discriminated against systemically, this color-blindness will only make their struggle invisible rather than ignored as it is now.

Let's not kid ourselves, the civil rights movement has not achieved its goals and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are not attempting to achieve civil rights for anyone.

Busy is as busy does: excuses

So as anyone who may have glanced at the date on the last post of this blog in contrast to this one may be able to discern, my plan to write three times a week did not pan out as anticipated. Everyone knows that life sneaks up on a person and things never go the way that we had planned. Things have settled down momentarily so I hope to be able to write more often than I have been, I'm guessing it'll probably end up being about 1-2 posts a week for now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mission Statement

As the first official post of this blog (all of the previous posts are copy/pasted from Facebook and other such places) I feel that I should make a statement as to the purpose of this blog. Unlike most of the blogs that litter the internet the purpose of this blog is not to obtain readership. Though gathering a populace who enjoy reading my writing is certainly not something I will work against the true purpose of this blog is rather to continue writing and hone the skills for which I will be paying for the next few decades. As such, though it is desired, readership is a secondary concern in this endeavor and won't be actively sought. That said, if you do enjoy any of my articles please feel free to link it to others, just ensure that you attribute the content to its proper source. I plan to post regularly, at minimum three times a week but may post more often if I am so inclined.

I spent a considerable amount of time pondering whether or not a blog was something that was of interest to me and, if it was, what the focus of the blog would be. Fortunately, since my purpose is not readership, I have the freedom to expand my focus beyond a single subject and discuss any topic that is to my liking. Though I cling to this freedom an entire lack of focus would create an unreadable pile of filth without purpose that I will inevitably tire of and abandon. Therefore the main topic of discussion will be current events (most likely related to politics), though I would not be surprised whatsoever if I was to venture into topics such as history, civil rights, video games, literature, comic books, things I despise, and Kelsey Grammer...

okay, probably not Kelsey Grammer...

but definitely David Hyde Pierce...

okay probably not him either...

but I'll definitely make outdated references to hasbeen actors.

What is certain is that I desire this to be a place of debate in which open discussion can occur without the name-calling, accusatory, flaming, generally unfavorably common internet behavior that is found elsewhere. For the time being I have comment moderation off because I do not foresee gathering a readership that debases themselves in this way (or any readership at all), however if it becomes a problem I may change that in the future. Or I'll just mail you a cereal box full of thumbtacks, whichever method is more effective.