Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
It’s not a good sign for the future of your party when the GOP’s “Hispanic outreach director” has had enough of his own party’s dim view of immigrants and immigration. A little more than a year ago, Pablo Pantoja was tabbed as the guy to reach out to Hispanic voters on behalf of the Republican Party.
Pantoja is not just calling it quits on the job, but on the party. He announced this week that he was switching parties, writing in an email:
Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.
It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others.
Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.
Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.
A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” (Here is some more information on what Pantoja was referencing).
Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.
The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. …
Of course, this switch should not surprise anyone within the GOP; if it does they are even more out of touch than I thought. The party has been anti-immigrant and in some ways, anti-color, for so long now that attempts by Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and others to send the message that the GOP is now more Hispanic friendly probably falls on deaf ears at this point. Much too little and much too late.
P.Z. Myers whiffed on that Atheism Plus foolishness, but nonbelief should be about celebrating our similarities, right? That said, I couldn’t agree more with what P.Z. Myers wrote about Minnesota’s recent vote to OK gay marriage.
Gov. Mark Dayton wrote:
In my heart, I grieve on both sides. Because I know what it’s like to be alone and I know what it is like to have somebody close to you and love you. But I grieve inside because I feel we are opening the doors to Sodom and Gomorra. And in the end, God is going to be the judge,” said Nelson, of Blaine, tears running down her cheeks.
Aww, he grieves on both sides. How compassionate. He apparently doesn’t shed too many tears, however, since priestly exhortations against sodomy by fiat trump any loneliness folks might feel from the lack of a mate, straight or otherwise. In the end an all-loving, peaceful, war-loving God — depending on which part of the Bible you read — with his fire and brimstone, will be the judge.
Myers concludes his remarks about Dayton:
I would bottle your tears and perhaps dot a little on my wrists every morning — Eau de Schadenfreude. Or perhaps I would drink them like a rich bitter wine, and laugh. Those aren’t tears of sorrow, but of nasty cruel bigotry — you didn’t get your way, you weren’t allowed to demean other citizens of this state in the way you wanted, and now you get to weep in frustration, while I have no sympathy.
And to compare the happy men and women who can now aspire to share equally in love and marriage with evil, wicked horrible people from your book of lies, to tell yourself they are damned and will be destroyed…well, I’ll dance an especially happy spiteful dance on your broken dreams of oppression, lady.
Conservatives and religious types just need to swallow this conclusion hook, line and sinker because it’s reality: in regard to equal rights – particularly gay and civil rights – as San Francisco goes, so goes the nation. Resist this trend all you want but believe you me, whatever is now acceptable in California, the Pacific Northwest and New England, will one day be acceptable in the entire nation, the South included, and no matter how long it takes, resistance to this fact is futile.
If any of us thought there was any chance for the GOP to grow up and move past partisanship in order to get something done in Washington during Obama’s remaining years in office, we might as well dream on. This do-nothing bunch of Republican lawmakers seem dead set on not only inaction, but attempting work against the administration, no matter how detrimental this might be to the nation itself or people’s faith in the political process.
Here’s part of an article from Slate:
In the past couple weeks, in interviews with House and Senate staffers for the Republican leadership, there has been a depressing message: Nothing is going to get done for the next four years. Again and again, the same mantra could be heard. Partisanship and election jockeying for 2014 and 2016 is going to keep everything locked up.
Watching the live feed from the White House on Friday it became hard to argue otherwise. President Obama held an event with mothers defending the Affordable Care Act, the start of a monthslong effort to protect his signature achievement, which Republicans have promised to fight all the way to the 2014 elections and beyond. Then, shortly thereafter, White House press secretary Jay Carney jumped between answering questions about the administration’s response to the attacks in Benghazi to the Internal Revenue Service targeting the Tea Party and other conservative political groups for audits.
It’s going to take some time to get to the bottom of these controversies, but we can conclude the pessimists are probably right. Nothing is going to get done in this siege environment.
This New York Times editorial also highlighted this pervasive tone within the GOP camp in Washington. The paper even goes so far as to recommend that Obama outright abandon any attempts to extend an olive branch to the Republicans:
It is time for President Obama to abandon his hopes of reaching a grand budget bargain with Republicans.
At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.
I can’t say that I disagree, but we should also remember that on at least one piece of important legislation, the Affordable Care Act, Obama and the Washington Democrats moved forward and did the right thing without GOP support. The Republicans have not been interested in actual leadership the past four years, only interested thwarting Obama’s policies, and they even seem willing to let the nation default on its debt to make a point. This is not nasty, cut throat maneuvering; it’s childish school yard politics.
Here is how The Times concluded its editorial:
Republican lawmakers have become reflexive in rejecting every extended hand from the administration, even if the ideas were ones that they themselves once welcomed. Under the circumstances, Mr. Obama would be best advised to stop making peace offerings. Only when the Republican Party feels public pressure to become a serious partner can the real work of governing begin.
President Barack Obama said the following back in 2009:
Although he now has nothing to lose being a lame duck president, hopefully he still means these words.
Agreeing with some advice Jonathan Chait offered about political discourse and argumentation, Ta-Nehisi Coates said political commentators — I think he would probably extend this to all opinion writers — should increasingly take on intellectual giants, rather than go after mental featherweights such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin:
Write about something other than current politics. Do not limit yourself to fighting with people who are alive. Fight with some of the intellectual greats. Fight with historians, scientists, and academics. And then after you fight with them, have the decency to admit when they’ve kicked your ass. Do not use your platform to act like they didn’t. Getting your ass kicked is an essential part of growing your intellectual muscle.
I agree to a degree, insofar as it helps the person doing the writing. In Christian apologetics, for instance, it would be more beneficial to the intellectual growth of the writer to argue against some of the best thinkers apologetics has to offer — William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas or Ravi Zacharias, for instance, rather than charlatans like Pat Robertson or James Dobson. That’s not to say the “best thinkers” in apologetics offer a compelling case for belief. I just mean that these “thinkers” — and I used the term loosely — sometimes hold more nuanced views on faith than less erudite pastors and priests who simply quote scripture and assume that’s going to convince us of anything. A person, then, is better equipped to argue from a position of nonbelief when she has anticipated all the ways believers jump through rhetorical hoops attempting to defend faith.
A quote from Omar Khyyam seems apt here:
The Koran! Well, come put me to the test — Lovely old book in hideous error drest. Believe me, I can quote the Koran too. The unbeliever knows his Koran best.
That’s Rhetoric 101. Know your opponents, and anticipate their arguments. So, in this regard providing commentary on the brightest thinkers from any field of inquiry, rather than the most asinine, continues a pattern of learning that, as Coates argues, should not stop once a person gets a college degree.
What Coates doesn’t address is the flip side to this. Does pointing out stupidity benefit readers or does it just needlessly proliferate garbage and give people like Malkin more “air time” than they deserve? Media Matters, of course, has more or less built an empire on pointing out stupidity that takes place on FOX News on a daily basis, and I could crash this server writing about the latest antics of people like Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and their ilk. While I criticize them on here occasionally, would it be helpful to the larger and probably never-ending debate about which ideology, liberal or conservative, is the best one for leading a nation? Probably not.
But I think pointing out stupidity accomplishes at least two important goals. Deservedly, it marginalizes people like Beck and Malkin and their ultra-religious counterparts to the sidelines. Second, and more importantly, it shines a bright light on just how far the political and religious message in America has gone off the rails and how far the GOP spectrum has shifted, and making light of this could hopefully result in more moderate approaches, even among conservatives. Fringe ideology in either direction, left or right, will get us nowhere fast.
I continue to chafe at some of the so-called intellectuals on Free Thought Blogs continually referring to atheism as a “movement” and associating it with all these other causes that actual nonbelievers have every right to care about or not. I happen to think that supporting equal rights with no preference given to either gender is a positive thing, and this is why I have a reservations about feminism. I happen to think that a progressive view of politics is the best way to move society forward.
I happen to think that whatever legislation is being passed in California, specifically, the Oakland and San Francisco Bay area, will eventually filter out to the rest of the nation, and we will, kicking and screaming, one day more resemble California than the inverse. I happen to think that civil society has no place for semiautomatic weapons, but have trouble supporting the eradication of guns altogether because of legitimate security concerns and the potential for recreation-only uses. I happen to think that Black History Month is an outdated and somewhat insulting relic that should be dispensed with. I happen to think that stem cell research shows near limitless potential to save lives and improve the health and happiness of chronically ill patients. I happen to support anyone’s right to marry so long as they are paying taxes and are an upstanding member of society.
What I do is express my opinions; what I don’t do is dictate whatever I believe onto the entirety of nonbelievers, understanding full well that some skeptics might be conservatives in other parts of their lives. Some might be in favor of traditional marriage. Some might think Black History Month is a perfectly fitting recognition for our black brethren.
In her most recent “all the things that atheism is not” post, Greta Christina whiffs again, referring to the ludicrous “atheist view of sensuality:”
The atheist view of sensuality, of pure physical pleasure and joy in our bodies, is about eleventy billion times better than any traditional religious view. Our view — or rather, our views — of physical pleasure are more coherent, more ethical, way the hell more appealing and fun. We don’t believe in a supernatural soul that’s finer than our bodies, more important than our bodies, superior to our bodies in every way. We don’t think we have a soul separate from our bodies, period. We sure as heck don’t believe in an immaterial god who thinks that our bodies are icky — even though he, you know, created them — and who makes up endless, arbitrary, unfathomably nitpicky rules about what we may and may not do with them. We understand that the physical world is all there is. We understand that our bodies, and the lives we live in them, are all we have. And as a result, we are entirely free — within the constraints of basic ethics, obviously — to enjoy these bodies, and these mortal, physical lives. As atheists, we’re free to celebrate our bodies, and the pleasures they can bring us, as thoroughly and exuberantly as we can.
So why don’t we?
Why isn’t atheist culture more physical? Why isn’t it more focused on sensuality and sensual joy? Why is it so cerebral so much of the time? As atheists, we’ve flatly rejected the idea that there’s a higher, finer world than the physical one. Why does it so often seem as if we’ve bought into it?
She goes on to talk about how atheists — where this logic comes from, I don’t know — tend to be more “cerebral” in their approach to life, and thus, the sexual lives of nonbelievers are not as fulfilling as they could be. First, we can flatly reject the notion that religious people can’t have fulfilling sexual lives. That’s just anecdotal, atheist know-nothing rubbish. Spoiler alert: Christians have written mounds of books about how believers can have titillating sex and stay true to the faith. Or, if you reject the notion that Christians are somehow excluded from fulfilling or even kinky sexual experiences inside the walls of marriage, pick up this page-turner: “Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage.”
While I think it is true that the large majority of nonbelievers try to live in the moment and appreciate that this is the only life they are going to get, it’s also anecdotal to suggest that nonbelievers aren’t living sexually fulfilling lives. If the former is true, that nonbelievers appreciate the brevity of this life and live accordingly, why would they not be making the most of their sexuality? This seems to be a self-defeating argument that she’s making. Does Christina bring any proof to bear that atheists are prudes when it comes to the bedroom, that most of us have this nerdy side that makes us uncomfortable enjoying sex and sensuality? This is apparently the best she could do:
I know for a fact that many atheists, maybe even most of us, don’t live this cerebral way in our private lives. I know that I’m not the only atheist who revels in good food and better hooch; who fucks all afternoon and dances all night; who walks in the sun for miles and pumps iron for the sheer endorphiny pleasure of it; who literally stops and smells roses. But our public life typically doesn’t (sic) reflect this. There are notable exceptions, of course: Skeptics in the Pub and similar events leap to mind. But in large part, our public life as atheists — our events, our writings, our culture — is geared towards political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a passionate devotee of political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind. But that’s not all atheist culture has to offer. Not by a long shot. This wacky notion that our selves are not separate from our bodies and therefore this life is all we have… this is one of our greatest strengths. And yet, when it comes to one of the most obvious logical conclusions of this notion — the idea that ethically pursued pleasure not only isn’t sinful, but is an actual positive good — we flinch from it in public. When believers accuse us of being sybaritic hedonists, we hotly deny it… rather than saying, “Hell yes, we’re hedonists — why shouldn’t we be?(“) (italics mine)
For me personally, I think that presenting a public face that tells the world that nonbelievers celebrate the mind, while enjoying life and all the same pleasures as well-adapted, law-abiding human beings is a good message to send. One severe problem with the gay rights discourse in this nation is that Americans by and large only associate gay and lesbian people with sex. They have a preconceived notion that sex is the only thing gay people care about, and essentially, that it defines them. Obviously, this notion is terribly wrong, and I think it would be unfortunate if atheism came to be associated with hypersexuality.
We are simply people who want to experience what life has to offer and as much of it, before the lights go dim. Nothing more, nothing less. To attempt to elevate atheists beyond this, as somehow carrying the ball of humanity going forward, I think, is flirting too closely with arrogance and elitism, and this is the pretentiousness that seems to ooze from every orifice of the so-called Atheism Plus “movement.”
Speaking of pretentiousness, here comes the inevitable Richard Carrier-esque exhortations from Christina:
And sometimes it can be more subtle, an unconscious absorption of less obvious ideas and reflexes. As we see with the acceptance of the preposterous notion that physical experience is less valuable and meaningful than intellectual experience, and that physical pleasure is something to be ashamed of.
So let’s knock it off. Let’s celebrate our bodies as much as we do our minds. In fact, let’s stop seeing our bodies as something totally apart from our minds. Let’s not simply reject Cartesian dualism and the absurd notion that the soul is the real self and the body is just a skanky shell. Let’s reject its mutant offspring, the absurd notion that the intellect is the real self and the senses are just a meaningless indulgence. The atheist view of physical pleasure is more coherent, more ethical, and way the hell more appealing and fun. Let’s put that view front and center.
Nonbelievers, you have your barking orders. Follow them or suffer the wrath of Atheism Plus.
In a series of reversals on issues ranging from gay rights to immigration, Republicans have been implicitly admitting that their platform has been all but outdated and irrelevant for the better part of a decade or more, as they dial back on previously held positions and take stances that were typically identified with the Democratic Party.
Recall that in 2007, former presidential candidate John McCain the supported immigration reform under the Bush administration, saying in his most sincere voice:
I defend with no reservation our proposal to offer the people who harvest our crops, tend our gardens, work in our restaurants, care for our children and clean our homes a chance to be legal citizens of this country.
As if all Hispanic immigrants living and working in this nation only performed menial tasks like cooking and serving at the pleasure of the more affluent. In any case, according to The New York Times, although McCain supported an immigration reform bill in 2007, which he helped author, by 2008 he was saying that he would not support his own bill.
By 2010, McCain was toeing a hard line on immigration, saying that he supported, “No amnesty,” and that “Many of them (immigrants) need to be sent back.” Presumably, he meant back to Mexico. This year, however, he was part of a bipartisan panel consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans that has been working on immigration reform legislation. The panel also consists of Marco Rubio, who gave us this nugget back in 2007 before he was the GOP golden boy:
I am not and I will never support, never have and never will, support any effort to grant blanket legalization amnesty for folks who have entered or stayed in this country illegally.
Yet, by in late 2011, he was striking a different tone, saying that Republicans should tread softer on the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Here’s what he said in October 2011:
The Republican Party needs to be the pro-legal immigration party. We need to say, ‘We believe in immigration, and we think it’s good for America.’ But it has to be orderly, a system based on law, a system that works.
Fair enough, but Rubio is sitting on a panel that is working on a bill that would provide illegal immigrants living in the U.S. a path to citizenship. According to a report from Anderson Cooper, Rubio and McCain’s participation on the panel
seemed to send a signal that mainstream Republicans may be willing to compromise on an issue president Obama calls a top priority for his second term.
And here is John McCain from this January:
Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons. Second of all we can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows and in an illegal status.
Although Republicans will attempt to borrow the word “evolution” to account for their many reversals on immigration and other issues and how they are adapting to reach broader demographics, those demographics haven’t changed dramatically in the last five years. John McCain has shamelessly shifted in the wind on immigration so much that his changing views can’t even be described as evolutionary because that’s not how evolution works. There’s no room in basic evolutionary theory for complex forms, like ideas, to quickly revert to their pre-evolutionary status and then back again to complexity. Sure, a life form’s existence can slowly digress if their living and social conditions change, but even then, the idea is gradual environmental adaptation, not seismic changes in policy that change seemingly every month.
So, why has the Republican platform been so mercurial?
First, they are clearly losing the message, if they haven’t already lost it. In the aptly nicknamed “Republican Autopsy Report,” members of the GOP already admitted that their message was not reaching younger voters in Hispanic and other minority communities. Also in my view, younger voters are increasingly becoming less gullible and more savvy politically thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, social media, the satire of comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and the availability of information. How can young Hispanic voters and those of other ethnicities not be heavily influenced by this dynamic? According to a CNN exit poll from earlier this year, Mitt Romney garnered only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the last election, which was down from 31 percent during the McCain presidential campaign in 2008. Bush managed to get 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004.
Second, the GOP is acting like a moving target because they are just trying numerous strategies in the hopes that one of them will stick with younger voters. If the Republican Party had become more, not less, in touch with the needs and desires of the Hispanic community before the wheels came off the wagon, this might not have been the case since Hispanics tend to be religious and would sympathize with many of the standard GOP talking points. It appears that the GOP is attempting to build the party around Rubio, but at this point, I doubt merely throwing up a token Hispanic as your golden boy isn’t going to right the ship.
This billboard, which is on rotation in my town in East Tennessee, pretty well embodies the fringe movement in this nation and their ludicrous and desperate attempts at scaring people into distrusting and even hating the Democratic Party or progressives. Following the logic of the sign, we are supposed believe that either President Obama or our leaders in Washington as a whole are secretly plotting to take over the nation by enacting stiffer gun control laws, as if we actually live in a dictatorship like Nazi Germany circa 1942. This is beyond absurd, of course, but I’m starting to think that the fringe right in this nation are about on par with the 9/11 conspiracy theorists and the supposed UFO abduction victims, and as such, should be treated with as much contempt and mockery for first, failing to seriously advance any viewpoints that may actually improve this nation and the world, and second, by actively working to keep us slavishly in the dark ages and so far behind parts of Europe, China and Japan that we may never be the greatest country again … whatever that means.
Forgive me for being frank, but after all that’s happened in the last 10 years, it really takes some massive balls or abject stupidity or both to continue to defend the proliferation of semiautomatic and automatic weapons in civil society.
None are bigger than Lindsey Graham’s:
He also tweeted this:
Six bullets in the hands of a mother protecting her twin 9-year-olds may not be enough.— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) January 30, 2013
Where to begin with this logic? In Graham’s scenario, a mother is faced with protecting her kids against two intruders. He claims that six bullets might not be enough to fend off the bad guys, so she might need more fire power. Why not gun like an AK-47 or AR-15?
Am I an unreasonable person for saying that in that situation, the 15-round magazine makes sense?
Yes, and not only unreasonably, but a danger to the constituents you serve. You’re telling us that an untrained mother is going to start a firestorm either inside her own home or on her lawn with a semiautomatic weapon and be able to succeed by herself against two armed men a la some kind of female Jack Bauer? You’re telling us she’s going to be able to aim, compensate for the recoil and in a frenzied few seconds have the wherewithal to surgically gun down the perps? Hell, she’s just as likely to shoot her own kids in the crossfire. And if the number of bullets in a pistol is a concern, what’s stopping a parent from keeping two or three clips locked away with the gun just in case.
I mean the excuses and the irrational hoops these people are willing to jump through to defend guns of war around families and young children is not only contemptible but about as psychotic as the crazies behind Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.