September 15, 2012

Separation of church and state

What does that mean?

Your religion cannot stop me from choosing. Your religion cannot deny science and facts. Your religion cannot guide my country.

Do you remember what Senator John F. Kennedy said in 1960, speaking to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association? “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act… I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source…”

I don’t want to know about the religious faith of any candidate for any office or the religion of any public official. I am offended when I hear elected officials say, “God bless America.” Enough. Separate church and state.

Filed under: Social Commentary

August 19, 2012

Ripped from the headlines – guns in the U.S.

One of my concerns – gun control

Here’s an interesting perspective: The NRA doesn’t concern itself with gun violence. The NRA’s focus is selling more guns. I heard this insight in a conversation about the NRA on the Callie Crosley Show, WGBH, August 9, 2012.

And here’s a powerful description of what happens here in the U.S.: “Another Mass Killing Shocks America. Why?” That from Gary Younge in the August 13/20, 2012 issue of The Nation.

Younge talks about all the gun killing in the U.S., “a wretched yet constant feature of American life.” For example, there are 90 guns for every 100 people in the U.S., the highest concentration in the world. Guns kill 85 people daily in the U.S. However, Younge does note that access to guns “does not, by itself, lead to gun crime.”

But, “what links America’s high concentration of guns and relatively high level of guns deaths are the country’s high levels of inequality, segregation and poverty. For in countries with at least two of those features…you will find higher levels of gun deaths…. America is the only place in the Western world that has both rampant inequality and ample access to guns…. [and] a healthcare system in which large numbers of people are deprived of the mental health facilities they need, and you have laboratory conditions for sustained outbreaks of social violence involving guns.”

Younge ends this sad article with the following: “The shock resides not in the fact that a lrage number of people have been killed by a gunman – that happens every night in America – but that every now and then, the wrong people have died in the wrong place.” The movie theatre in Aurora, for example.

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Filed under: Social Commentary

June 10, 2012

Shame on us, the U.S.

5 facts

1. The U.S. is near the bottom of the developed world in children’s health and safety. Yes, that is a fact. In things like infant mortality, immunization, and death from accidents, we’re ranked 21 in the OECD nations (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

2.The U.S. betrays the young people we’ve told to stay in school, go to college. College debt is crippling our youth. The U.S. Congress won’t reduce the interest rates, and colleges increase tuition.

3. Home ownership – the main source of middle-class wealth – has mostly been destroyed.

4. Our prisons are more full than any other country. And prisons are there for smoking marijuana. But the robber barons of Wall Street…they keep getting their big pay packages and no prison time.

5. And healthcare isn’t a basic human right in the U.S. Healthcare is in every other civilized country. Here, you get what you pay for. Sometimes it feels like that’s the way the U.S. works: If you can pay for it, you get it. But if you can’t pay for it, you’re screwed.

Read the details in Pal Buchheit’s column, “Common Dreams,” May 19, 2012. “Five Facts That Put America to Shame.” Subscribe to Reader-Supported News.

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Filed under: Social Commentary

May 6, 2012

Anti-European bias

Yes, here in the U.S. of A.

Great comments by Adam Gopnik in the May 7, 2012 New Yorker, “Vive la France.” Anti-European sentiment in the U.S. And not just with the “right” but also with the “left.” The Americans keep talking about the possible dissolution of the European Union. Hey, people. Wake up. The EU is good stuff, smart stuff, a model.

Gopnik observes that the American tone – about all the stuff happening in Europe – is “oddly punitive…as though the EU had been the product of some Brussels bureaucrat’s utopian folly rather than a miracle of coexistence wrought by a handful of quiet visionaries after more than fifty years of catastrophe.”

To paraphrase Gopnick, stop thinking about the Euro exchange rate or the Greek deficit. The number to remember when it comes to Europe? 60 million. Approximately 60 million Europeans were killed between 1914 and 1945 – in those two world wars that divided the continent.

“Social democracy in Europe, embodied by its union, has been one of the greatest successes in history…. A continent torn by the two most horrible wars in history achieved a remarkable half century of peace and prosperity, based on a marriage of liberalism properly so called (individual freedoms, including the entrepreneurial kind) and socialism rightly so ordered (as an equitable care for the common good.)”

That’s the European Union. An extraordinary experiment. An extraordinarily successful experiment.

The U.S. should admire and respect this fact. The U.S. should cheer this example.

Read the column. Read past the early paragraphs about Sarkozy and Hollande. Read about the EU.

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Filed under: Social Commentary

April 29, 2012

U.S. political system is a mess

Which part is the problem?

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

And that atttitude produces such extreme dysfunction that the U.S. political system cannot “deal constructively” with the challenges that face our country.

So say Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, political scientists. The two have been studying Washington politics and the U.S. Congress for more than 40 years. Generally, their writings criticize both parties. But in a Washington Post article of April 28, 2012, they write a very compelling article that, quite simply, is pretty darn scary.

How have we gotten here as a country? What happened within the Republican Party that has moved it beyond any sense of reason to work collaboratively to confront the problems we face as a country?

Mann and Ornstein explain the situation like this:

— The realignment of the South, moving away from the Democrats after the civil rights revolution.

— Mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision by the Supreme Court.

— Anti-tax movement launched in California – Proposition 13 – in 1978

— Media changes like the rise of conservative talk radio in 1989, Fox News, and right-wing blogs.

But…and this is a very interesting “but.” Mann and Ornstein note that the most powerful push to the right comes from Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.

When Gingrich entered Congress in 1979, he initiated a strategy to convince voters that anyone would be better than the incumbents. Within 16 years – both a short and long time, I think – he got people to run against Washington, Democrats, and Congress.

Norquist, of course, founded Americans for Tax Reform. His Taxpayer Protection Pledge “binds signers to never support a tax increase.” Norquist’s pledge doesn’t even allow the closing of tax loopholes. And Republicans sign it. Those running for office sign it in order to get elected. Those in office sign it to stay in office.

Norquist is just a citizen, like you and me. He isn’t an elected official. He isn’t giving mega bucks to campaigns. He’s just soooo powerful.

Is there hope for change? Mann and Ornstein think things will get work after the 2012 elections. Mann and Ornstein observe: “If our democracy is to regain its health and vitality, the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party must change.”

That means that you and I have the power. We the voters.

It’s not okay for Congress to be dysfunctional. It’s not okay for elected officials to despise one party so much that you simply put a stop to governing. It’s not okay for voters to get so frustrated that they don’t vote.

This is not the way to run a country.

I read this article because I subscribe to Reader Supported News. It’s free. It’s informative. Check it out yourself.

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Filed under: Social Commentary

April 14, 2012

War and how it works

Or not

I just finished reading Rachel Maddow’s book DRIFT. It’s all about the military industrial complex and our many wars and….

Dwight Eisenhower warned us about wars back in his day. But we didn’t listen.

And now Congress doesn’t even declare war. Imperial presidents – which started with Reagan and his playmates Meese and Cheney – have all sorts of workarounds to avoid Congressional input or control. That’s not what the U.S. Constitution intended!

And outsourcing for the military. Wow. How not-cool is that? Outsourcing is a great way, apparently, to stop Congressional action.

Read Maddow’s book. Very interesting and informative.

Filed under: Social Commentary

April 14, 2012

What’s happening in this country?

Pretty darn scary

I subscribe to Reader Supported News. Clippings from all over the world – but pretty much all about the U.S. Liberal. Progressive. Free but it solicits gifts and I give.

— On 04-04-12, Robert Reich asked if I wanted social Darwinism or a decent society. I want a decent society. I don’t believe in survival of the fittest. Our society is only as good as the rights and basic human needs we ensure for all. The U.S. doesn’t do that so well and too many elected officials and those running for office want to continue doing it poorly.

— On 04-06-12, Naomi Wolf from the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper described sexual humiliation as a “tool to control the masses.” We have lots of sexual humiliation in the U.S. From poor sex education to limitations on a woman’s right to choose…. And now we have the sexual humiliation of body searches without any justification. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

— On 04-04-12, David R. Dow of The Daily Beast suggested we might want to impeach our Supreme Court Justices. Did you know that every democractic country in the world – except the U.S. – has term limits or age limits for its supreme judges? And in the NYT of 04-09-12, Paul Carrington suggested that we “bring our justices back to earth.”

— Another time, there was an article about the focus on private enterprise in the U.S. We privatize war. We private hospitals. We privatize prisons.

We claim that private enterprise does stuff cheaper and better. That’s just bullshit. Instead, what we get is worse for more.

Remember BP and its Gulf Oil spill? And Halliburton and and? You think that’s quality?

The privatization of wars and rebuilding had huge huge huge cost overruns. And still we sent reserves and military over for repeat tours. Prisons, hospitals and education all privatized. Mostly that hasn’t turned out as well as nonprofit enterprise. And we’re still talking about privatizing social security. Oh please!

Private enterprise does not do stuff cheaper or better.


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Filed under: Social Commentary

February 13, 2012

Right to work and labor unions

And Martin Luther King, Jr.

I read the Nation magazine, a wake-up call to the false slogans and ignorant exceptionalism of the U.S.A. In a recent issue, I learned that fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. warned us against false slogans.

What are false slogans? Things like “tax relief” and “pro-life.” As if taxes are always bad so we need tax relief. As if abortions and birth control mean that one is anti life.

Dr. King warned against the false slogan “right to work.” He warned us that the purpose of “right to work” is to “destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.”

Thank you, Dr. King. I regret that we are not paying adequate attention to you…yet again.

Filed under: Social Commentary

January 2, 2012

The contest between brain and gut

And the U.S. fails

I’m always frustrated by the non-smart…even dumb…candidates for office in the U.S. But I’m mostly angered by U.S. voters who don’t vote for smart people.

“The question is as old as democracy: should the highest office go to the most intellectually able candidate, or to the most temperamentally ‘normative’ (other words for normative include ‘unexceptional’ and ‘mediocre’)?

“In the rest of the developed world, the contest between brain and ‘gut’ was long ago resolved in favor of brain. In America the dispute still splits the nation….Nine years, if you remember, the populace looked on in compliant silence as the president avowedly ‘went with this gut’ into Baghdad.”

Thanks to Martin Amis’ article “Among the Clowns” in the 12-26-11/01-01-12 issue of Newsweek.

Filed under: Social Commentary

December 4, 2011

Teaching about sexuality

Not enough teaching and not good enough teaching

Read the great and marvelous and wonderful and happy article “Teaching Good Sex,” by Laurie Abraham, November 16, 2011, New York Times. Abraham writes about this amazing teacher, Al Vernacchio, who teaches human sexuality at the Friends’ Central School in Philadelphia. What an admirable teacher. What an admirable school. Every youth – every human being – deserves to learn about sexuality and sex in this way. To understand. To feel secure. To be sensitive. Read the article. That’s the world I want. That’s what I want in my schools and in my community. Sadly, this is all too rare.

Filed under: Social Commentary

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