There have been a number of articles and postings recently concerning the toxic impact of Fox News, especially to members of the older generation. One article on salon.com
dealt with a documentary made concerning "losing" someone's father to Fox News. This article in turn generated postings such as this one on the progressive blog Daily Kos
detailing the experiences of others who have seen family members fall under the sway of the hate, disinformation, illogical rants, and hysterical conspiracy theories of Fox News and other right wing outlets.
As accurate as these articles have been I believe the impact of right wing media is only part of the story. Another factor is how susceptible some people of a certain generation are to having their fears and anxieties preyed upon and played upon by these media opportunists. The world they see around them now is far different in many ways than the one they grew up in, the one they expected to inhabit as they raised families and reached retirement.
As examples I can think of a number of incidents from my own life.
First let's level set. I am a baby boomer. Too young to have come of age in the raucous 1960's, but the times of the late 60's and early 1970's certainly shaped my world and my expectations. Let's just say I am within ten years of what traditionally had been considered retirement age. So I'm younger than many of the parents and grandparents who have been the subject of these "lost to Fox News" pieces. But even for people of my age group the country is vastly different than the one we internalized in our youth. Is it any wonder then that some people of my age could be seen crying and raging at Tea Party events in recent years that they "wanted their country back"?
The first example of how the world has changed since my youth occurred in high school, specifically American History class my junior year of high school. The teacher said he had a question for just the guys in the class. What if we boarded an airplane and when the pilot's voice came on over the intercom to tell us about our flight, time of departure, etc that it was a female's voice? What would be our reaction?
Maybe my class was a fairly progressive, forward thinking one even though political discussions of any kind were rare among classmates at that time. Every boy who spoke up, including me, thought the question was ridiculous on its face. No commercial airline would put anyone in that position unless they had gone through proper training and were properly certified, it would be too risky for the airline to do otherwise. So you would have to assume this was a qualified pilot, female or not.
"That's interesting", our teacher smiled. "The guys in the class before you were almost unanimous in saying they would get up and leave the plane." Remembering back to high school days it is possible that some alpha male in the other class spoke up first with that opinion and everyone else followed. But even so the point is that it really wasn't that long ago that the question of a female pilot was something curious enough to be considered worthy of serious thought and debate.
Fast forward to recent years for another example of how today's world has diverged so much from that of my youth. I work at a large corporation in the Information Technology department. At one point, a few years ago, I was part of a small team that worked very closely together for a few months on a very fast-paced intense project. The project methodology called for daily team meetings.
One day as we sat huddled in a small conference room it struck me that this would not have been the project team I would have visualized being a member of in my youth. I looked around the table and saw a man born in Pakistan, another originally from Indonesia, a young woman from South Korea and a young man from India, and me, a middle-aged white male born in the USA. Except for the Indian all of these people were employees living in the area where the office is located. This was definitely not my father's work place.
People react to change in different ways. I noted the makeup of the team and just thought "wow how different from years ago".But I did not find it threatening or unsettling. Rather it struck me as kind of "cool" and an indication that times certainly have changed. But not everyone would look at it that way. What I have described were easily visible ways the country has changed during my lifetime. But there have been deeper currents as well that have led to changes perhaps less visible, but truly disruptive.
The middle class in America has been rocked and squeezed for many decades now. Free trade and globalization have moved high-paying jobs overseas, jobs that used to sustain a large part of the American middle class. Changes to tax and fiscal policy have funneled more and more money into fewer and fewer hands, weakening demand in the economy and putting a downward pressure on job growth. At the same time government policy and globalization pressures have lessened the influence of unions and simultaneously made it easier for companies to exploit workers and to get more work out of them for less money.
The result is a generation of people who either remember how their own families were provided for, or can remember providing for their own families in a much less stressful environment. Wages and salaries have stagnated while worker productivity has doubled. Job security is a thing of the past. Even if you're doing a good job and your company is profitable, you are not immune from being laid off. Guaranteed pensions were replaced by defined contribution plans and then by 401(k)'s. Each move leading to more risk and less security for the middle class would be retiree.
In that atmosphere is it any wonder that people of the baby boomer generation and later are fearful and anxious? It is very easy for some people to conflate the two sea changes that have occurred for this generation, the unsettling and jarring shocks of our changing economy and workplace, with the more transparent and visible changes to the American melting pot.
It is an environment where certain people fall easy prey to those who will offer them easily identifiable scapegoats and simplistic answers. People recognize that things have changed in this country as it relates to their own personal economic well-being, and not in a good way. In that respect I am in agreement with the Tea Party baby boomers wanting their country back. The difference is recognizing the forces that have 'taken it away'.
It's so much easier to blame all the problems, and your feelings of anxiety and fear, on people different than you, even if logic tells you they have no real power, than it is to look at the policy and structural changes that have occurred and work with others to try and move the country in a different direction. Who is it easier to take on, rich Wall Street stockbrokers and bankers, or immigrants, single mothers, poor people and people with strange accents and a different skin color?
So yes Fox News and their ilk are all too ready to stoke the forces of fear and prejudice for their own aims. But it is also important to recognize the things that are leading to anxiety and fear of people of a certain age that makes them easy prey, if we have any chance of reaching and regaining those we have lost.
I debated whether this post would go on the "Views" or the "Brews" side of the site.
Only once before have I put a post that dealt with politics under "Brews". That was when the government shutdown was impacting reviews of applications for new beer offerings, which of course hit the small, craft brewers harder. I didn't go into deep political analysis or try to assign blame, rant about any one side in particular. Just laid out the issue and asked people who cared about beer and the microbrews to contact their Congress people to please get this resolved. People's dreams and livelihoods were being impacted after all.
This time though I will err on the side of caution and put this post on the "Views" side of the site, the overtly political side. Even though it shouldn't be. This deals with climate and science so it shouldn't be the subject of political tugs-of-war but we know how that's been going.
So anyway it seems that the drought in California may impact the beer industry sooner rather than later. Many breweries, such as Lagunitas, rely on water from rivers such as the Russian River. The rivers and the reservoirs, lakes, etc that feed them are running dry after years of severe drought. Breweries may need to look for alternative sites to switch production, or even switch to using groundwater which would greatly influence the taste of the products. Lagunitas is large enough to be able to pursue some alternatives. Other smaller producers will not be so lucky.
Of course the article I was reading, "California's Water Crisis Is Becoming A Beer Crisis" by Jeff Spross at thinkprogress.org
, doesn't stop with just California. The article points out how what is happening to California is very much in line with predictions made by climate scientists concerning climate change. It also points to other changes impacting breweries due to climate change. It notes that barley and hops production have been impacted, and will likely decrease due to shifting climate patterns. Experts consider the quality of European hops in general to have been declining since the 1990's as temperatures in general rise. A study in the Czech Republic
determined that the quality of the highly prized Saaz hops, the hops that give the famed Pilsener beers their distinctive quality, has deteriorated steadily since 1954 due to rising temperatures.
By all means if you want to believe global warming is a hoax, that is your right. You want to believe we can take tons of carbon deposited over millenia and locked away beneath the earth, and burn through them in about a 200 year period with little or no consequences, you can believe that too. You are even free to vote for people who believe the same thing, even if most of their money is coming from the fossil fuel industry.
But now it's personal. Sure your ignorance may help doom many species on this planet, including our own, put half of Florida under water in 50 or so years, cause huge dislocations and unrest among populations (which the reality-based Pentagon and CIA are already planning on happening), lead to increasingly extreme weather conditions, but negatively impact the quantity and quality of beer available? Now you've gone too far.
I usually don't read Cal Thomas, a leading conservative columnist. In fact according to the Chicago Tribune he is "America's number one nationally syndicated political columnist". They couldn't post it if it wasn't true.
But when I saw from the title that the subject of his latest column
was retiring Representative Michelle Bachmann, well I had to look. It's like a pile-up at a NASCAR race. You're obligated to look, heck you're almost not human if you don't.
So curiosity piqued I waded into the column. And I came away with a totally different picture of Mr. Thomas. It turns out Cal Thomas may just be his generation's greatest political comic. Follow me below for further explanation.
The humor began ever so subtly. He started off by noting that Rep. Bachmann has less than a year to go in her final term. Too early for an exit interview, but never too early to get the views of Ms. Bachmann on the issues of the day, including "how to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016". And he delivered that with a straight face! Pure comic genius right there. Because who else do you turn to for deep political thoughts or winning "strategery" than the founder of the John Wayne Gacy Fan Club? Or the woman who relies on scientific advice from some woman who comes up to her at an event?
But wait Cal wasn't done. He asked her if she was disappointed the conservative cause has not gotten further during her time in Washington. Her response was that the conservative agenda requires voters electing people with "a biblical world view". Now some people might get the joke right there, but Cal missed an opportunity with this one. It required some more setup, some mention of how Rep. Bachmann and others are all up in arms about Muslims and Sharia Law. Then hit them with the biblical world view quote. Sometimes Cal you do
need to hit the audience between the eyes with a 2 by 4.
Cal quickly redeemed himself however when the topic turned to getting Ms. Bachmann's advice on how a presumptive male Republican nominee goes about beating Hillary Clinton in 2016. And of course you already know what's coming next, but that doesn't make it any less hilarious. Or should I say "Hillary-ous"? Two words: "Benghazi" and "Obamacare". Pow! Bam! Sure you see it coming but it still leaves you rolling on the floor laughing your you know what off.
And again Cal was the master of restraint, transcribing these lines from Bachmann like they were to be taken seriously. Comic gold.
First up in the one-two punch Bachmann advises for taking out Hillary:
"Remind people (Clinton) is seeking to become commander in chief (and look at) how she has operated in the past with these types of responsibilities. She was in charge during the Benghazi debacle."
Yes. Yes. Benghazi. It really took Obama out in 2012.
But wait, catch your breath for the second in the combination from the dear departing Representative:
She says to label Hillary as the "the godmother of Obamacare", who worked "behind closed doors" to enact a similar program when her husband was president.
That one is the absolute best right there. How Cal kept from laughing out loud in Michelle's face and wrote it in his column as if it was something worthy of serious consideration is beyond me. I mean sure, what is now Obamacare was devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation as the market based answer to what the Clintons had proposed for health care reform. And sure, what is now Obamacare was pushed for a while by Senate Republicans at the time, again as the market based solution to counter the Clinton plan. But make believe that the Clinton plan was like Obamacare and pin it on her. And Cal plays along like this is a great strategy!
But wait, Bachmann is still not finished. Cal sets her up beautifully at this point. Despite the obvious and proven appeal of the twin Benghazi-Obamacare attacks, how, he asks Ms. Bachmann, does the GOP candidate overcome the "lure" some voters might feel to elect our first female president. Don't you worry, Michelle's answer does not disappoint.
"Effectively she would be Obama's third and fourth term in office."
That one still cracks me up every time I read it. Yes, you can overcome the "female" angle by hanging Obama around Hillary's neck. You know with Benghazi and Obamacare. Because those issues weren't tried before. And that's where Cal Thomas has shown himself to be a true artist. Surely he knows the joke is that the GOP tried Benghazi and Obamacare as two of their main issues in 2012. Heck they flogged them to death. How many times did Mitt Romney promise he was going to repeal Obamacare, "day one"? Presumably by executive order. And we all know how he tried to make Benghazi a center piece of the presidential debates. And he lost in 2012 by something like 5 million votes to Obama.
But Cal just keeps feeding Bachmann the rope and plays the straight man while she hangs herself by seriously proposing that Benghazi and Obamacare are the keys to beating Hillary in 2016. I'm still wiping the tears from my eyes.
Just in case your ribs weren't already sore from all the laughing, Cal delivers another punch line stating that those issues and the prospect of Hillary being a continuation of Obama "might scare enough people to vote for the Republican nominee". Just like they did in 2012. I get the joke,Cal, I get it! My sides hurt, please stop!
And as a final gift, Cal shares one more Bachmann gem concerning the possibility of the first female president. She believes "a lot of people 'aren't ready' for a female president". You didn't even have to say it Cal. We know what you were thinking. We can insert our own joke here.I'll have to begin checking out his columns more often. It's always good to start your day with a good belly laugh - or several.
I keep hearing this rumor that the Republicans are the party of small government. The party of getting government off your back. The party of getting the government out of the way so businesses, entrepreneurs, and the wonderful, all-knowing free market can work their magic.
At least that's what I keep hearing them say. The markets pick winners and losers, not government. Local and state governments know better, not Washington. People can be trusted with decisions over their own lives, their own health, their own money, not politicians or bureaucrats.
But then they do stuff, and I get really confused as to what this party really does believe.
Take Tennessee for example. Please. [Rimshot].
Volkswagen has a plant in Chattanooga. This week the workers at the plant are voting on whether or not to join a union, specifically the United Auto Workers. And the company is taking a neutral, hands-off approach to the vote. In fact at times the corporation has sounded supportive of the idea. You see they want to institute a works council at the plant, which is a committee that includes management and workers. They have one at every other VW plant in the world. To have one here requires a union. So they will not be upset to see a pro-union vote.
But you know who will be upset and is doing everything they can to stop a 'yes' vote? Yes the Tennessee Republican party. The Governor, U. S. Senator Bob Corker, various GOP members of the Tennessee legislature have weighed in. They have threatened to withdraw the tax breaks VW was given to open the factory in Chattanooga should a union be brought in. Billboards have been taken out about the invasion from the "union" for "up north". I mean, really? And as I said this is not coming from the corporate management. It's those damned politicians butting in.
Sen. Corker has even gone so far as to say if the vote goes pro-union VW will probably take the jobs for the SUV's built there to other plants. Or that he has been assured, by people unnamed, that a "no" vote assures expansion and more jobs at the Chattanooga plant.
Of course a VW executive denied this. He said the decision of whether to expand in Chattanooga or instead to expand an existing factory in Mexico would hinge on other factors, not the union vote. After all that plant in Mexico? Wait for it - it's unionized.
So suddenly we see the "trust the people" Republicans jumping into an issue that you would think does not concern government. It's an issue between the company and its workers and the decision is up to the workers. I thought that's what Republicans were all about, people making their own decisions without interference from the big, bad "gummint"? Instead it looks like they're trying to interfere with the market.
But this is just another example of the divergence between what the GOP says and what they actually do. They rail against Obamacare as government intrusion and scream how medical decisions should be up to you and be between you and your doctor. Unless of course you're a woman and the decision is to use birth control, or for whatever reason make the gut-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy. Then you can't be trusted apparently and the government must stop you. It must tell your doctor what he or she can or can't tell you about your healthcare options. The government in some states must even mandate medically unnecessary procedures and threaten the doctor with penalties if he or she fails to perform them.
Or if you're a state that has decided to allow same sex marriages. Then apparently Washington knows best and there should be federal laws or Constitutional amendments to override the wishes and laws of the individual states.
So it looks like all the Republican talk about individual freedom, freedom from government interference and intrusion is just that - talk. They trust you to make your own decisions, until those decisions run counter to their ideology or their religion. Then they are all too happy to have the government jump into your bedroom, your boardroom, your doctor's office as quickly as possible. They are very eager and willing to have the government intrude to enforce their ideology and religion on you and make you abide by it.
Here we go again.
So you may or may not have heard that Michael Sam, a linebacker for the University of Missouri, and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, came out as gay.
He had been projected to be a middle round draft pick for the next NFL draft, with various handicappers projecting him going anywhere from the third round to the seventh round. There was some question of his pro career as he was somewhat of a tweener. Some considered him too large to play outside linebacker in the NFL, but too small to play defensive end which many felt would be his natural pro position. Still the only question wasn't whether he would be drafted, but when.
But all that changed with his announcement. Now his draft stock is expected to slide.
One source, NFLDraftScout.com, had Sam projected as 9th best defensive end in the draft. After his announcement he slid to 14th. CBS had Sam as the 90th best player overall for the draft before his "coming out". Afterwards, he is now 160th.
To what is this attributed? He was considered one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that Michael Sam is now considered a "distraction". Several anonymous NFL execs, player personnel directors, scouts, general managers, etc. have talked about how the NFL just isn't ready. It has nothing to do with him personally or his being gay. But the culture of the NFL locker room isn't ready you understand. Camaraderie in the locker room is apparently a fragile thing, and all you need is one player who gets a little more attention than others feel is warranted to derail the whole atmosphere and presumably the team's season. In that regard since Sam will now be the focus of media attention rather than the superstars of the team it just won't work. Teams and players don't like distractions or controversy. Apparently having a gay teammate might not be accepted by everyone and so again that delicate locker room balance will be upset. So you know, they aren't bigots or have anything against Michael Sam being gay, but think of the poor locker room.
But wait. Stop me if you've heard these arguments before. And you have.
This was the exact same argument that was made against desegregating the armed forces. The lines were something like, I'm no bigot, but, having blacks and whites in the same unit will lead to complications and distractions and destroy the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the outfits. And on a battlefield that will get people killed.
So Harry Truman did it anyway, and guess what, no issues.
The argument in various forms has been used again and again since then. It was used as an excuse to not have women in the same military outfits as men, or serving in combat.
It was the argument against allowing gays to serve openly in the military. The effectiveness of fighting units was again raised as the reason not to do it. And again was shown to be false.
And so here we go again. Someone has to be the first to break the barrier, but "we're not ready yet". And the usual excuses are made about the effectiveness of the team being imperiled by the "controversy" and the "distraction".
Only once again we can already know that the narrative is a false one. You see Sam came out to his University of Missouri teammates before last season. And it was a non-issue. They had a fine season and went to a bowl game. All that despite having such a "distraction" on the team.
So sorry anonymous NFL execs, but you are simply bigots, or at best, enablers of bigots.
People have been beating up on journalists and journalism pretty well the last couple of days and deservedly so. I mean you expect Fox News to misrepresent and distort the Congressional Budget Office report on the impacts of healthcare reform ("Obamacare") on the economy. But it was very disheartening to see how many members of the traditional, mainstream, mythical "liberal" media fell right into line with the right wing talking points. And yes I realize in the preceding sentence the word "mythical" can be modifying the words liberal, media or both. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is more appropriate.
As hopefully you realize by now the assertions that the CBO report stated that Obamacare would "kill" 2.5 millions jobs was totally wrong. The report concluded that in fact Obamacare would:
- create jobs
- lower unemployment
- reduce the deficit
What it did say about those 2.5 million fewer people working, was just that. Thanks to being able to find affordable health insurance on the exchanges, approximately that number of Americans would voluntarily decide to leave their jobs. Jobs that in the past they would have been chained to because it was the only way they could obtain affordable health insurance for themselves and/or their families. Now they would have the freedom to retire early and bridge the gap until they qualify for Medicare, leave a job to start a business, switch to a part-time job for a period of time to be home with young children or an ailing parent. The lock between job and health benefits is broken. The jobs don't go away, some of the people who would have filled them in the past, do. Which of course makes room for others needing work.
Even Republicans used to believe that was a good thing. Rep. Paul Ryan even laid that out as needing to be a key component of any healthcare reform when the work on healthcare reform began to get underway in early 2009. The CBO is simply confirming that yes, Obamacare accomplishes that goal.
Eventually most of the media (the usual suspects excluded of course) got around to reporting the correct conclusions of the report. But of course damage had been done as far as the impression given to the casual observer/voter who may have only heard the initial reports and postings. But in usual media fashion they didn't blame themselves for having totally misinterpreted the report (or more likely not bothered even reading it in the first place and simply reporting off the assertions of others). It was all the Democrats and the White House's problem that it was being misrepresented. Healthcare reform is just too complex so they need to do a better job explaining this "stuff", you know the facts.
Silly me. I guess I'm getting old and hearken back to the good ol' days when reporting facts and making sense of things to the general public was the job of, oh I think the word for them used to be, "journalists". You know an informed citizenry being the lifeblood of a democracy and all that quaint stuff. Now they are content to sit back and be glorified stenographers. They paint every issue as having two (and only two) sides. They simply transcribe what each side says, and then voila their work is done. No context, no facts to help the general public interpret the competing statements. Just a "he said, she said" and you decide which side to believe.
So that brings me to what set me off this morning. I hesitate to pile on since journalism has given itself such a bad black eye recently. And compared to the CBO report fiasco this is really a minor thing. But I heard something this morning that I found infuriating and is emblematic of the level of reporting America receives today.
It occurred on the Today Show on NBC. Of course they are spending most of their time and energy promoting the Olympics, but in between they take time to give the other news of the day.
First up today in the "rest of the news" was a not more than 30 seconds item regarding the vote on extending unemployment insurance. The lead in was along the lines of "Another major loss for Democrats". Then described how they failed by one vote to get the extension of unemployment insurance to come to a vote. That they failed to satisfy Republicans that there was enough of it paid for along with other deficit reduction measures. And then simply stated that as of December 31, 2013 when the extended UI expired 1.7 million Americans lost their unemployment payments.
"There", I thought, "is everything that is wrong with the modern media in a nutshell."
Notice what the focus of the story was, not the lost unemployment and it not being brought back. No, the focus was the horse race aspect of it. The Democrats lost. The Republicans won. The 1.7 million Americans without unemployment? Bit players in the political drama apparently. No need for context as to the vote itself, the issues involved, the historical context of emergency unemployment insurance in tough times having been a bipartisan, no brainer, didn't have to be paid for, issue in the past. No discussion of how from an economic standpoint extending unemployment on the one hand, and cutting back in other areas, makes no policy sense. Because facts like that just get in the way, and besides then it might appear you're taking sides rather than being balanced.
Which is ultimately one of the major failings of today's traditional media. Their job should be to accurately inform the public. When "balance" trumps accuracy, then everyone in the democracy is in trouble.
Is it just me, or does today's Republican Party make you hope there really is a Hell?
I know, they are trying their best to make our planet and our country a living Hell for more and more people, but that doesn't count.
Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia wants to bring back child labor. You know, to make the poor kids who get free school lunches "earn" them and learn the value of work. Just like Jesus would have wanted. Or Scrooge, pre-visitations.
Pay people a living wage so if they are working full time they can actually support themselves and their families? No, let's subsidize the corporations who are making record profits, largely by not paying people, by having the taxpayers provide food stamps, temporary assistance for needy families, free and reduced school lunch, Earned Incomed tax credits, etc.
Then let's complain about how many people are "mooching" off the taxpayer and point fingers and get everyone mad at the unemployed, or under-employed, or sick, or poor, or infirm, or immigrants, you know all the people with the REAL power in this country, who hold ALL the money. Just like Jesus would have done.
Tell lies as a matter of course. About the poor. About the environment. About the economy. Be disrespectful. Be belligerent and angry and condescending. Be mean. Obstruct at unprecedented levels, through use of the filibuster, by offering endless amendments and "poison pills" to the most ordinary of legislation, legislation that used to be considered "no brainers" and receive quick bipartisan action. Then when called on it, or drive the majority to take action, scream bloody murder. The modern Republican, for all their bellicosity, are most expert at playing the victim.
Spew hate against gays or others who are not "like you". And then scream if you can't make your hatred and prejudice the law of the land. Or if someone calls you on your prejudice. That somehow if you are not allowed to fully practice your hatred and make it legal, that you somehow are the victim.
So for these and many other reasons, as you watch the modern Republicans in action and listen to them, you really hope there is a Hell. Even if it means being pressed into duty as a demon whose job would be to stick in the pitchfork. And you know where it would be fitting for it to go.
Ok, I could have gone with "Inherit the Wind Take2" as a title, but went with a different twist instead.
You may have heard or read that Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" of TV fame, is going to Kentucky to debate the founder/director of a Creationist museum, Ken Ham. You know that "museum", the one that shows dioramas of people and dinosaurs living at the same time.
They will debate whether or not Creationism is a viable explanation for life and its diversity.
Been thinking about this throughout the day and reading other people debate about it as well.
And I'm torn.
On the one hand I believe it's a mistake and a waste of time. Creationists believe something to be true based on belief and in spite of contradictory evidence. So no amount of evidence or logic will sway them. They will fall back on the "because God did it" defense. Which is why Creationism or Intelligent Design do not belong in a science classroom.
Because at its heart a scientific theory must have the innate ability to be disproved. You can ask questions of a scientific theory and predict the answers. Then you design and perform repeatable experiments, or make observations in nature. If the results are as predicted, the theory is "proved". But if the results do not match then the theory is "disproved". A scientific theory itself can evolve over time based on experimental results or new discoveries. In extreme cases a theory is thrown completely overboard and replaced with a better explanation for the observable phenomena.
You cannot do that with Creationism or Intelligent Design. Any "theory" that relies on a supernatural entity cannot be disproved and therefore is automatically disqualified from the scientific realm of human endeavors. It may indeed qualify as an alternative point of view for how life began, or how it came to be as it is today, but it is not a scientific point of view.
And that is the problem with this "debate". It is not a debate at all. Creationism and Evolution are two completely different ways of viewing the world. One relies on "faith" and the other on evidence and logic. How do you debate that? You might as well try to shoot a moving breeze.
So I figure Mr. Nye has lost as soon as he steps out on the stage.
But maybe, just maybe, there is a silver lining here. Perhaps Bill Nye can at least illuminate the positives of viewing the world based on evidence, facts and critical, logical thinking. And perhaps he can demonstrate how much better that is, for individuals and a country, then to base everything on wishful thinking and a blind faith in something unseen and "unreasonable".
At least I'm keeping my fingers crossed that is the case.
Hi. Long time no blog. One of my resolutions for the New Year is to have a more regular blogging schedule. Unfortunately my paying gig as well as some other things in my personal life have kept me from posting for close to a month.
Part of this blog, especially concerning the holiday season was begun prior to the Christmas/New Year's break.
My thoughts regarding recent events is that we are once again in the Season. The Season of False Outrage.
You know the annual whining about the fictional "War on Christmas" used by many to boost book sales or ratings.
Or the not at all seasonal outrage that confuses the Constitutional right to free speech with the consequences of exercising that right.
Like many I find the whole "War on Christmas" is getting old. It doesn't exist. People are free to celebrate Christmas in their own lives and in their own way. This phony War on Christmas trope is used by those who want everyone to acknowledge their personal beliefs as the predominant or "one true" religion. They refuse to allow any accommodation for those with differing beliefs than their own, but insist that everyone accommodate their beliefs.
These are the bullies who complain when a low paid clerk at a retail store gives the more general "Happy Holidays" greeting as opposed to "Merry Christmas". Never mind that the clerk is only doing what they were instructed to do because after all how do they know what the religion/beliefs are of the person across the register from them? And for that matter how does the offended shopper know what the religion/beliefs of the clerk may be? The difference is the "good Christian" shopper insists on having their belief system acknowledged under any and all circumstances and doesn't care about the clerk's position or beliefs.
Which brings us to Phil Robertson and "Duck Dynasty" on A&E. For those who only track real news or dropped out of site the month of December, Phil is the patriarch of the clan shown in A&E's reality show hit "Duck Dynasty". He is one of those good ol' boys from Looz-ee-ana who has found religion. He gave an interview in a magazine where he sounded off on issues like homosexuality and race. He basically blasted gays and gay marriage because, well you know, the Bible. And he also basically said things in the South were a lot better, everyone got along, and blacks were a lot happier when they knew their place.
For these statements Phil was suspended from A&E. This of course brought out the right wing outrage machine all whining about the "PC police" and the trashing of the First Amendment. And predictably Phil's suspension was short-lived, he's back on the job, and the right wing has a new homophobic, racist folk hero.
Now Phil has every right to be an ignorant bigot. And he has every right to be an ignorant bigot publicly. And the First Amendment guarantees that the government cannot do anything or take any action against Phil for holding and stating these views.
But the First Amendment does not guarantee Phil that he suffers no consequences for holding 19th century views in 21st century America. Let's return to our erstwhile retail clerk. Imagine the clerk insists on lecturing customers about his/her beliefs or views while on the job. The management would likely receive complaints and ask the clerk to desist. If the clerk didn't stop proselytizing on the job, the clerk would likely lose that job and justifiably so. They have the First Amendment right to hold and state their views/beliefs. But that is not a shield from suffering non-governmental consequences.
The difference of course is that the Christian right only believes in the First Amendment for itself and its views. They would leap to the defense of the clerk in our example if the views being expressed by the clerk were fundamentalist Christian beliefs. But if the clerk was espousing liberal views or those of Islam or promoting atheism, well then First Amendment be damned, fire their sorry ass! The management has every right to do so! Cuz it's Amerka!
And the sad and scary part of that is they see no inconsistency or illogic in holding those incongruent views.
Happy New Year and hope to be sharing more with you in 2014!
First of all let me begin by wishing everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Most of us have much to be thankful for no matter what else is going on in the world around us.
This morning I had another "Is it just me?" moment. It came while reading about what is suspected to be the next Republican tactic to thwart democracy and prevent the President from being able to put his nominees on the courts in this country. It deals with a practice known as "blue slip".
This practice began in 1917. Basically it works like this. When someone is nominated to fill a federal judgeship the Senate Judiciary Committee sends out two blue slips, one to each Senator from the state the nominee is from. The blue slip is used by each Senator to signify if they approve or object to the nominee. Traditionally if one of the Senator's objects, or fails to return the blue slip, the nomination does not proceed.
You can see how this can easily become the next tactic of Republican obstructionism, simply have a Republican Senator withhold his or her blue slip. If the Democratic leadership decides to follow tradition the nomination will not even get past the Judiciary Committee let alone come to a vote. The Republicans will keep all these judgeships vacant, at least until such time as a Republican wins the White House. Then we'll see how often blue slips, or filibusters, are invoked to prevent the winning President from appointing his or her officials and judges. And if the Democrats ever tried the tactic you know the Republicans would scream about how nefarious and unpatriotic this was, and the traditional mainstream corporate media would bleat along with them.
But that is not the part that struck me and made me ask "Is it just me?"
No, it was the date. 1917. The year the tradition of the blue slip was introduced into the rules of the Senate. That date rang a bell. And then it hit me. That was the same year the Senate introduced the filibuster into its rules as well.
So let me get this straight. There is no mention of filibuster in the Constitution. And for the first 128 years of the Republic (1789 - 1917) there was no filibuster in the Senate. Likewise there is no "blue slip" or requirement to consult and get approval from the Senators of a judicial nominees home state before proceeding with the nomination found in the Constitution either. And for the first 128 years there was no such practice either.
So what is so magical about 1917? It finally hit me. That was when the 17th Amendment to the Constitution went into effect allowing for members of the U.S. Senate to be elected by popular vote. The Constitution had given that power to state legislatures, so it was the state legislatures that elected the Senators. The "people" only directly elected the members of the House of Representatives.
It would seem that all these rules adopted around the same time have the same thrust. Namely to put a brake on a majority elected by popular vote and protect the losers. It would seem the Senators in office already feared this new found power being given directly to the citizens and were busy putting up roadblocks to keep popular public opinion in check.
And while there were times when it was frustrating and aggravating (as in the filibusters of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts), there was little visibility or evidence that the filibuster or blue slip rule had dramatic impact on the direction of the country or on the ability of the majority party, or the party who won the White House from being able to govern.
That is until 2007. That is when Democrats regained control of the Congress. The Republicans did not take kindly to their newfound minority status and began using the filibuster at a frequency never before seen. This only accelerated when they lost the White House as well in the 2008 election. There have now been almost as many filibusters by the Republicans from 2007 to present as there had been in the period from 1917 to 2006. Since 1917 there have been 168 filibusters of executive branch or judicial nominees. Over 80 of those 168 have occurred since Obama became President. Clearly the Republicans have abused the filibuster and are prepared to abuse the blue slip tradition as well.
We now see how a party bent on partisan advantage and putting the good of the nation behind their own political ambitions and ideology can make a government dysfunctional.
It is one thing to protect the rights of the minority. It is another thing entirely to allow them to abuse rules and protections to completely thwart the majority and attempt to nullify the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box.
And I believe this is also related to the movement among some Tea Party Republicans and their billionaire benefactors to undo the 17th Amendment and return election of U.S. Senators back to the state legislatures rather than letting people vote for them directly. It is much easier after all to control state legislatures and control local elections than it is to control state-wide elections. Costs a lot less money too. It all part of a pattern to allow corporations and the very rich and powerful to exert ever more control over the politics and economy of this country.