Archive for January, 2010
It can withstand interviews with Larry King, Michael Moore … and, of course, jail time.
How unprecedented was the meeting and Q&A between President Obama and Republican leaders? I’m not sure, but it seems that nothing of this nature has taken place in decades, if ever. Here’s a portion of Obama’s speech prior to the Q&A session.
It seems like we have clambered through this partisan quagmire for the last two-three decades or more, and as someone who is opposed to the two party system (because issues aren’t always, and rarely are, two-sided) I thought a meeting such as this between the president and the opposition party had the potential to be incredibly constructive.
The key point, I thought, from President Obama’s brief speech Friday at a Republican caucus, was this:
I don’t believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security.
Which, of course, cuts to the quick of a longstanding problem among politicians that they too often embrace causes only for the sake of winning them votes in the next election rather than embracing causes to make this country we love a better place.
When thinking about social conservatism or the Tea Party crowd and the like, I’m often struck by the mountain of contradictions implied by their ideologies. On some points, they say small government is the way to go. On other points, they tout more government intervention. The implication is, itself, a non sequitar. Anyone who can’t see the contradictions in the Republican Party’s stances on moral issues (pro-big government) versus its stances on national economics (con-big government) needs to look again and realize that the Republican Party is one ball of ideological contradictions.
Here are some Republican causes, divided into their contradictory parts:
For more government intervention, fight against:
- Gay rights
- Stem cell research
- Immigration reform
- The separation of church and state
For less government intervention, fight for:
- The deregulation of Wall Street and other economic sectors
- Gun rights
- Tax cuts for the rich but not for the middle class
- Limited or zero health care reform.
CNN has created an interactive graphic allowing users to view any of 189,577 Twitter comments in response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union from Wednesday. The categories of commentators are “Support Obama,” “Oppose Obama,” “Mixed Reaction,” “Great Speech” and “Obama Too Liberal.”
Also, moveon.org held its first “real time dial test” of the speech, with about 10,000 moveon.org members participating. Understanding that this chart represents progressive reactions, here are those results:
The New York Times chimed in today with its unsigned editorial, lauding Obama as a “gifted orator,” with the ability to “inspire with grand vision and the simple truth frankly spoken,” and here are a some more comments from various luminaries posted by the San Francisco Chronicle:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican
“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for job creation in California. … The Obama administration is strongly supporting California’s high-speed rail project, which is the largest public works project in the nation and will create jobs, save billions of pounds of greenhouse gases and be the first true high-speed rail system to break ground in the nation.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena
“As families across the country tighten their belt, we need to do some trimming of the fat in Washington, too. However, I’m going to watch very carefully to make sure that the president lives up to his promise to go through the budget line by line, rather than make across-the-board spending cuts that might do more harm than good to our local and national economies.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Republican
“We want results, not rhetoric. We want cooperation, not partisanship. … All Americans agree we need a health care system that is affordable, accessible and high quality. But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government.”
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara
“I commend President Obama for calling for the repeal of the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. … We have been actively working on this issue in Congress and are more than ready to work with the president to ensure that this misguided policy is repealed as quickly as possible.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky
“I’m hopeful the administration’s new focus on the economy will lead it to say no to more spending and debt, more bailouts, and more government.”
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez
“(Obama) hit it out of the park. He made it very clear why we’re in this struggle to change the economy – and took the Congress, took the Senate especially, to the woodshed for not getting these things done.”
Here, I’ve compiled some of the more meaningful quotes from “The Catcher in the Rye,” one of the most celebrated novels in American literature:
I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can. — Chapter 10
People never notice anything. — Chapter 2
Anyway, I’m sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will. — Chapter 18
Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody. — Chapter 20
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” — Chapter 22
I don’t even know what I was running for – I guess I just felt like it. — Chapter 1
“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”
“Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.”
Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right — I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game. — Chapter 2
These intellectual guys don’t like to have an intellectual conversation with you unless they’re running the whole thing. They always want you to shut up when they shut up, and go back to your room when they go back to their room. — Chapter 19
That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact. — Chapter 25
I’d bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell. I still would, too, if I had a thousand bucks. I think any one of the Disciples would’ve sent him to Hell and all — and fast, too — but I’ll bet anything Jesus didn’t do it. — Chapter 14
Yesterday, Steven Jobs introduced Apple’s next big thing, the iPad, which is basically and iPhone without the phone (and if it actually was a phone, that would be hilarious) and a laptop without the horsepower or the keyboard. And here’s the bizarre-looking device that Jobs and Co. will try to convince us we can’t live without:
Of course, at this point, Apple’s propensity to introduce new gadgets has gotten ridiculous, and I’m sure Jobs has someone staying up late figuring out how to create this device:
As The Onion also reports, Jobs already lost a bunch of sleep on the iPad. He must have had a tough time presenting the iPad to reporters and tech geeks in San Francisco with all that work from the night before.
CUPERTINO, CA—Claiming that he completely forgot about the much-hyped electronic device until the last minute, a frantic Steve Jobs reportedly stayed up all night Tuesday in a desperate effort to design Apple’s new tablet computer. “Come on, Steve, just think—think, dammit—you’re running out of time,” the exhausted CEO said as he glued nine separate iPhones to the back of a plastic cafeteria tray. — The Onion, Jan. 27, 2010
President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address tonight before Congress. I would have live blogged it, supplying my oh-so timely and thought provoking comments, but these folks, Andrew Sullivan, with The Atlantic, and Jeff Zeleny, with The New York Times, were blogging by the minute and did it as well or better than I could (and Zeleny was possibly at the Capitol), so read their stuff for the play-by-play.
But to briefly comment, I thought the speech did everything it needed to do in outlining what he felt were accomplishments in 2009 (The full text is here. I feel no need to regurgitate what he already said) and charting the path forward. Of course, I was most interested in what he had to say about the health care debacle, since I’m one of the folks he’s referring to in this comment:
Now let’s be clear – I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.
I took on health care because of the stories I’ve heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who’ve been denied coverage; and families – even those with insurance – who are just one illness away from financial ruin.
The key point for me here is “even those with insurance.” Forget the uninsured. OK, don’t forget them! But the larger point is that even if you take the uninsured out of the equation, this country still has thousands of folks with company insurance who are still financially crippled by the difference between their medical needs and bills versus their salaries and insurance coverage.
Obama, of course, was his typical spirit-raising self and poked fun at himself and what has come to be “politics as usual” on the Hill. But at no point did his jest turn serious than when he said the following, which was the highlight of the speech in my mind in which Obama pwned 60 senators in the chamber:
So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics. I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. (emphasis mine). So let’s show the American people that we can do it together. This week, I’ll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. And I would like to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can’t wait.
This is certainly not all that needs to be said about the speech, but it’s a start. Some were touting it as Obama’s most important speech of his presidency. Probably so, given the recent health care stalemate and the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts to replace Ted Kennedy. And, given that it’s his first SOTU after the $787 billion stimulus plan. If it was his most important, I would wager it was his most effective thus far, gauging by the reaction from fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. We can only hope the end result is true bipartisanship on critical issues like health care and that lawmakers’ “need to govern” once and for all supercedes their need to get elected. In this, I’m not confident, but I’m hopeful.
We kind o’ thought Christ went agin war an’ pillage. – James Russell Lowell
I caught wind of this a few days ago and wanted to mention it.
ABC News uncovered last week that a gun sight maker, Trijicon, has been producing their scopes with apparent bible verse references engraved on the sides of the products, right next to the serial number, as seen in this picture:
In at least two examples, the scopes reference John 8:12:
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
and 2 Corinthians 4:6:
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
According to the ABC News report, Trijicon confirmed that it
adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions “‘have always been there” and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is “not Christian.”
And every other thinking person at this point, one can only hope. Rachel Maddow stated everything that is wrong with proselytizing such as this. She said:
Those rules exist (law against the U.S. military proselytizing for any religion) because the last thing in the world we want to do is hand al Queda and its recruiters and its sympathizers citable evidence for their eternal claim that our military is fighting a Christian, religious war against Muslims, which all Muslims therefore have a duty to join … against us.
Here’s the whole video:
And she ends:
Congratulations, you’ve just spawned a 1,000 anti-American propaganda videos. Hope you’re enjoying your war profits.
I’m sure he’s not the only one to have done so, but New Yorker staff writer James Wood has composed a piece about the classic piece of theodicy that was Pat Robertson’s stupifying condemnation of Haitians. As Wood notes, theodicy is the acknowledgment of God’s kingship in the world in the wake of suffering or pain, and it turns up about this time after most major catastrophes. The most recent of such occurrence was probably Hurricane Katrina in 2005, although it’s not inconceivable that similar thoughts weren’t uttered, at least privately, in the aftermath of the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar or the 1990s quake in godless San Francisco.
As Wood writes:
This repellent cruelty manages the extraordinary trick of combining hellfire evangelism with neo-colonialist complacency, in which the Haitians are blamed not only for their sinfulness but also for the hubris of their political rebellion. Eighteenth-century preachers at least tended to include themselves in the charge of general sinfulness and God’s inevitable reckoning; Mr. Robertson sounds rather pleased with his own outwitting of such reckoning, as if the convenient blessing of being a God-fearing American has saved him from such pestilence. He is presumably on the other side of the sin-line, safe in some Dominican resort.
As I was intrigued (perplexed?) by messages I saw in passing on Facebook and in news stories calling for folks to pray for the folks in Haiti, this topic brings some, OK many, questions to mind:
Where were the prayers prior to the quake? Haiti isn’t exactly a thriving nation. The people of that country could have used some spiritual cheerleading way, way before the catastrophe in Port-au-Prince centuries before now. I’m more impressed with people who have actually sent food, resources or who have personally traveled to the country. Why should we wait for something terrible to happen, and then, and only then, pray for the affected people? Do the prayers do any good? We have no way of knowing, but why not ask God to prevent any and all natural disasters, mass murders, acts of terror, rapes and murders?
Why do folks pray about natural disaster victims to a God who, in his omnipotence, and there is no getting around this, either allowed the disaster to happen or simply did not prevent it. To what extent does it matter that we are supposedly “fallen?” Does the fact that we are “fallen” make it OK for an all-powerful god to allow the wide scale death of his creation?
Of course, we must concede that we have no way of knowing which disasters or deaths he might be preventing because obviously they never happened if he prevented them. For all we know, he could be preventing 1,000 huge disasters per year, and only one or two slip through. But if that’s the case, those one or two become interesting occurrences indeed. How do one or two slip the past omniscient eye of God out of 1,000s? Again, if he allows one or two to slip through, what does that say about God?
Would he seriously consider any such requests or questions to slow down or stop the natural disasters and personal tragedies that wreck humankind? If not, why not? Does it all boil down to his divine governance, thus reverting us back to theodicy?
The only people who would seem to have the right to invoke God at the moment are the Haitians themselves, who beseech his help amidst dreadful pain. They, too, alas, appear to wander the wasteland of theodicy. News reports have described some Haitians giving voice to a worldview uncomfortably close to Pat Robertson’s, in which a vengeful God has been meting out justified retribution: “I blame man. God gave us nature, and we Haitians, and our governments, abused the land. You cannot get away without consequences,” one man told The Times last week.
Others sound like a more frankly theological President Obama: a 27-year-old survivor, Mondésir Raymone, was quoted thus: “We have survived by the grace of God.”
Too bad that same grace didn’t extend to and smile on some 150,000 other Haitians, a grace that seems selective, to say the least.
Oh, and here’s another, by another person who actually knows what’s he’s talking about, Ambassador Raymond Joseph:
My personal favorite quote: “… So, what pact the Haitian made with the devil has helped America become what it is.”
Another, from Rachel Maddow:
I cannot apologize for him (Pat Robertson), but if I could, I would.