Tag Archives: conservatives

Kansas City Under Occupation

That’s right, the Occupy Wall Street movement is making noise in the heartland. According to the Kansas City Star, a group of around 300 protesters are camped out at Penn Valley Park across from the Kansas City Federal Reserve building. They had various signs and people speaking and all of that. The question still looms over this entire movement though. What do they want?

The answer doesn’t seem to be even remotely clear. I’ve heard various reports on these protests from different places in the country. To me it seems that people are just mad. The groups seem to have some diversity in political ideology, though it’s hard to tell how much. They seem to not like the idea of “corporate personhood” or the large amount of corporate influence in our elections.

I’ve yet to decide what I think of all of this. The footage I’ve seen looks like young people who want real change. Think of the beginnings of the Tea Party. It was a bunch of people who got upset over government bailouts of corporations and a ballooning deficit. They talked about fiscal responsibility and people from different sides of the political spectrum were involved. Then the ultra-right hijacked the movement using vast sums of money and turned it away from balancing the budget. Suddenly, The Tea Party was about cutting government spending and lowering regulations and taxes. Those who were not staunch conservatives left, and we had a national movement spouting talking points for billionaires and corporations. It is still to be seen if this movement will suffer the same fate from the right or the left.

After reading the piece on the Star’s website I took a look at some of the comments. One guy tried to somehow make an argument using Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I came across this comment by playon266:

“as they all celebrate by making calls, taking pictures, and sending texts on their smart phones (made by big corporations, on carriers that are big corporations)… and then while driving home in their car or truck or hybrid (all made by big corporations), they’ll stop at Wal-Mart (a HUGE corporation) and buy cheap food (from corporate food producers) and cheap imported products (from big FOREIGN corporations)… and they’ll think they made an impact. Interesting…”

He makes a point. Corporations exist because we support them. If no one  went to Wal-mart, we would not complain about the evils of Wal-Mart. Playon662 misses the point however. These protesters don’t want corporations to be eliminated, they want them to get the same treatment we do. They want them to pay taxes. They want them to have less influence in our political system. They want the everyday citizen to pay less in taxes than the corporation with a multi-billion dollar profit margin.

Two pieces were written at the Kansas Free Press, about the Occupy Wall Street protests. One, by Christina Stein, celebrates the activism and drive of the protesters. The other, by Ken Poland, questions whether these protesters have the knowledge and ability to exact change. You should read them both.

It is too early to know what these protests will accomplish, if anything. One thing seems sure; the protests are spreading. The coming days will show if Americans are truly angry, and if they are, will politicians listen?

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I Need A Conservative Blog

Let me explain. I am a regular reader of the Kansas Free Press. There are a number of people who blog there and it is something you should read, especially if you live in Kansas. On that site there are a few people who regularly comment. A couple are more conservative than most of the contributors. They make comments knowing that most people who read the site will disagree with them. They made me think that I need to read and comment on blogs more conservative than mine. I can write all I want, but if I don’t go out and challenge others what’s the point.  As a country we should have a discussion. My problem is that I haven’t found any. Let me clarify I haven’t found any reasonable ones.  There are plenty of conservative blogs that spout Obama myths and have comment sections purely about the evils of liberalism, but I want one with a genuine discussion. The comment section at the Kansas Free Press is great. The discussion is meaningful and respectful. I can’t believe there are no conservative sites that are the same. There have to be. While I may disagree with conservatives on any number of issues, I have known many with whom I could have a great conversation. We have genuine disagreements and we should talk about them. So I’m asking if anyone knows a good conservative blog tell me about it. Not the big ones. I don’t care about Ann Coulter. I’m looking for normal everyday people. If you have any suggestions let me know.

So There’s An Imaginary Forest. . .

Really, there’s an imaginary forest. This forest has trees and plants, but no animals, nothing that can hear, except you. Suddenly a wind picks up and a huge tree starts falling to the ground. Now think, if you weren’t there did it make a sound?

How long did it take before you said, “Of course.” Not very long, I’m guessing. It isn’t such a simple question though. Let’s talk a little about our sense of hearing. Hearing is an example of mechanosensation, meaning that our hearing organs, the ears, are interpreting the movement of molecules around us and sending that information to our brains. Sound is a wave, which means it is not a physical object. It is really just energy that causes molecules to vibrate. They bump up against other molecules and transfer that energy. That happens countless times until some of those molecules bump up against your eardrum. That information is then translated into nerve impulses that shoot up your auditory nerve to your brain. Then you hear something. This happens extremely quickly and is going on constantly. So a tree falls and vibrates the world around it eventually those vibrations make it to your ear and you think “I think a tree is falling.” Hopefully you look around to make sure it’s not falling on you. People usually argue that sound waves are still sent out even if no one is there and so the tree still makes sound.

The presence of sound waves isn’t the question, however. The real question is what is the very nature of sound. Is sound something that exists in the environment? Or is it merely our brains interpretation of something in the environment? Does the physical sensation of sound exist outside our heads or is it created by our brain? Imagine if humans lacked a sense of hearing. We could still discover sound waves in the environment. We could make machines that would detect them. We might still call them sound waves, but they wouldn’t mean the same thing to us. If we lacked a sense of hearing it would fundamentally change the way we think of sound, because our brains would not interpret that information the same. In essence, sound as we know it would not exist. So is the “tree in the woods” question really so simple? Should you have answered so quickly?

The “tree in the woods” question is perhaps not important in our lives. People certainly have more important things to worry about. The nature of sound and hearing doesn’t usually make the top 5. What’s the problem with that? The problem is that we answer so many important questions with the same quick, “of course.” Questions about government, politics, education, any number of important things get brushed aside and we just believe what we repeatedly hear. That’s why FOXNews can say the President is spending $200 million a day on an Asia trip and people believe. “Do politician’s waste our tax dollars? Of course.” We can be convinced that teachers have easy jobs and are overpaid. “Teachers only work 9 months a year, of course they’re overpaid.” We don’t demand thorough arguments and answers, so we don’t get them.

When I was a child I dreaded hearing one of my say four words. “Because I said so.” I hated it, because it was simply not an answer. I’ve always asked questions and I wanted a real answer but sometimes “because I said so” was just easier. For example, my mother would tell me to put on my coat. I would ask why, and she would say “because I said so.” She could have said, “It’s the middle of winter and if you don’t put on your coat you’ll have hypothermia before we reach the car.” That would have taken much longer I  would’ve needed an explanation of what hypothermia was. She went with brevity instead.

I only mention this because we are getting “because I said so” arguments and we’re responding with “of course.” The new Republican budget was unveiled recently. In a video Rep. Paul Ryan, showed that his budget would avoid a debt crisis. How? Well he had a graph and he said so. He doesn’t want people asking too many questions. We are being force-fed a mantra that tax cuts for the rich will create jobs. Republicans say it so often I’m beginning to think they have a “millionaire tax cut” button. Why do tax cuts for the rich create jobs. Because they said so. You could argue that the people who really create jobs are consumers, because they buy products and services thus creating demand for more products and services. This in turn employs more people to manufacture and sell those products and to provide those services. Virtually all of those consumers are not wealthy. So perhaps cutting taxes for them would make more sense than cutting taxes for the rich. You could make that argument. They would rather you didn’t. I’m amazed at the number of people who just assume the “tax cuts create jobs” argument is  true without taking the time to think about it. This brush-off by the public is how we ended up with “death panels.” Sarah Palin hopped on FOX and did some “golly gee Democrats want to kill old people,” number and we were off to the races.  Pres. Obama might not be a citizen. Why? Donald Trump says so. He said so multiple times so it must be ultra-true. These questions are far more complicated and take far more attention than we are willing to give. Yes, people are busy. They have families, and jobs and any number of things to do, but we are at the beginning of the next presidential campaign. If we want real leadership, we have to demand it.

I wrote 402 words about the tree in the woods question. Imagine how many more words could be written about taxes, healthcare, and education. All of these discussions are going on in the federal government, and state governments. In the movie “Uncle Buck” there’s a scene where Macualay Culkin is asking rapid-fire questions of his Uncle Buck. Buck (played by John Candy) tells him he asks a lot of questions. Culkin replies, “I’m a kid. That’s my job.” When did we quit that job? When did we become so disillusioned that we decided it wasn’t worth asking anymore? We need to take up that job again, but it won’t work if we just accept any answer. So we have to ask, How many “because I said so” arguments are we going to accept before we ask for real answers? How many times are we just going to say, of course?  I used to think that Americans were just apathetic when it came to holding government accountable. I was wrong. We just don’t want to take the time to really examine the questions. So, I’m extending an invitation. It’s to a rally. A rally where we start asking the tough questions and demanding real answers. Where is this rally? It’s on your computer, in you living room, in your statehouses, or an imaginary forest. It’s anyplace where we know that sound exists because we make sure that people can hear us.

Bachmann-Trump Overdrive

A quick scan of political news seems to turn up the names of two people these days. One is Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) which is not that surprising. Congressman Ryan is the GOP point man on the budget issue and the major political battles going on right now are all about the budget. You would expect him to be out in front arguing the Republican side. The other person is more surprising. It is common to see him on TV and in the news, but not usually political news. He is Donald Trump, he fires people once a week for a hefty paycheck. The question is, just what the hell is Donald Trump doing on news/political TV. Apparently, he is seriously considering running for President, and his major issue seems to be that the President may not be a citizen. That’s right, Trump has put the “birther” movement back on the table and he’s pushing it hard.

If it were just Trump, I wouldn’t be here typing this. Donald Trump can run around playing presidential candidate and I really don’t care, but it’s not just him. Michele Bachmann mentioned that she would make her birth certificate public if she decided to run. She’s from Minnesota. If you are from Minnesota, North Dakota, or Wisconsin you don’t need a birth certificate. Just talk a little. As long as you don’t say, “aye” after everything we believe you’re American. If it were just Rep. Bachmann, I might not worry too much. Then at CPAC this year I saw a clip of Mitt Romney making a joke about his birth certificate. Mitt Romney is the Republican front-runner. This things got some staying power, and Republicans are trying to ride it to the White House. In fact, a recent poll showed Romney in first with Trump tied for second.

I could go on at length about the birther issue. I could talk about “certificates of live birth” vs. “certifications of live birth,” both of which fit under the umbrella term “birth certificate.” I’m not going to because I firmly believe that people are on one side or the other of this issue and nothing is changing people’s minds.

What’s more important is the rhetoric people are using. If you were to ask Mitt Romney if the President was a citizen he would say yes, but in front of a very conservative crowd he’s willing to fan the flame.  What these people say matters, and they seem willing to push their words to the point of insanity if it will help them win.  Sarah Palin is a master of this, and it’s why she has an ardent group of supporters. They may not be a huge block of people but they are very strong in their support. They are a group that truly buys into the things she says even if they don’t really make sense. It those kind of people who destroyed town hall meetings on healthcare. By dropping terms like “death panels” and “healthcare rationing” politicians like Palin were able to enrage the people who believe anything they say. So rather than having an honest open debate about healthcare, we had angry white people screaming at the President, and the HHS Secretary and so forth.  We have to demand more. We cannot sit back and allow the blatant hyperbole.  When Newt Gingrich goes on TV and says America is headed toward, “a secular nation, perhaps one run by Islamist Fundamentalists,” More people need to call him on that. We are a secular nation. We have no national religion, and what crazy muslim terrorist are you going to find who would run one? That statement probably helped him. It uses all the right terms to appeal to a white, conservative, Christian. Those are people he’s going to need if he wants the Republican nomination. Apparently, he doesn’t care if he sounds insane. Listening to NPR during the labor protests in Wisconsin, I heard a woman describe the protesters as, “willful idiots in the Communist agenda.” What Communist agenda!?!? Twenty years after we won the Cold War, and there are still people out there who think the President is a Communist and he’s renaming Dupont Circle after Stalin. Republicans are using the old standard tactic. If you want to win an election take an issue. Make people afraid of it, and tell them whose to blame for it. So they brought out death panels, terrorists and communists, and it’s all Obama’s fault. Oh and he’s not really a citizen by the way.

I bet that the closer we get to the 2012 election we’re going to start hearing about how important it is. I would put money on the table that we will hear that this election is a fight for America’s future. It’s the most important election of our lifetimes. They will play it up to make people think if Obama wins this election on Jan. 20, 2013 he’s going to pull out the launch codes and shoot nuclear missiles at all the red states. This election isn’t the most important in our lives. I would argue that the election in 2000 was the most important one I’ve lived through. It was one of the few times in American history that the succession of the Presidency was unclear. Also every election is a fight for America’s future. We’re picking the people who run the country. This one will be no different.

What needs to be different is the tone. With all the money going into advertising by special interests the tone is unlikely to change. Politicians have to start really talking about the serious issues. That is the biggest threat to the US in the long term. We cannot continue to allow politicians to push rhetoric to the fringe of reality. We have to expect more. Politicians will always focus on what gets them elected. It is our job to be more engaged in the public debate. We have to hold them accountable for what they say. If we do that they will start saying different things. Hopefully, we could have a more honest and open election. Unfortunately, I, and I’m guessing you also, will believe it when I see it.

Arizona Doesn’t Support Religious Education. They Just Pay For It.

The Supreme Court ruled on an important case today. In a 5-4 decision they upheld an Arizona law that provides a tax credit to citizens if they donate to a “school tuition organization.” This tax credit, called the “Private School Tax Credit Law” gives citizens somewhere between $500-$1000 dollars in a tax refund if they donate to one of these “STOs.” The real question is whether this is government support of religion. There are a few very important questions that need to be answered about this law.

First of all, how is it not government support of religion when government is providing money that supports religion. The Arizona state government is saying if you promote private education they will give you the money to do it. A tax credit means that they reduce the amount of taxes you pay. This is different from a tax deduction that only reduces your taxable income. How is that not government support of private education? It is true that not all private education is religious, but most of it is. When it gets down to the facts of the case, government should only be funding private education because it is the only way government can control the agenda. Religious schools teach only their view of the world. That’s why children brought up in religious schools may not be taught evolution for example. Government should provide education for its children without religious influence.

It would be very interesting to find out if those people who support the Arizona tax credit would support it if they heard that the money was going to Muslim schools. It shouldn’t. It also shouldn’t support Christian, Jewish, or any other religious schools. It is important that education explores world religions. It is also important that they do not show a bias. Education is something that should provide a broad worldview. It should never narrow that view to support any one viewpoint.

Lowering the Corporate Tax Rate is a Joke: They Can’t Pay Less Than Nothing

I’m going to get into this more this weekend, but let me make a simple argument here. Lowering the corporate tax rate won’t create any jobs in this country. It is that simple.

It’s  been big news lately that GE made a few billion dollars profit in the U.S. last year and yet paid no taxes. This story comes up every year. It turns out that through completely legal tax avoidance, corporations are able to dodge considerable amounts of taxes every year. To put this in perpspective, GE paid no taxes and I paid $783.  I would like my Republican friends explain to me why in God’s name we should lower the corporate tax rate.

The argument is always that we have to lower the tax rate to create jobs. This makes no sense. A large corporation doesn’t create jobs in any one particular place because of the tax rate. They do it for the labor costs. If Corporation A can hire workers in Honduras to effectively do a job for $3 a day, they will NEVER hire an American at $7.25/hr. It’s not going to happen. Jobs are created in this country mostly by franchises and small business. These are businesses that cannot afford to hire overseas or it doesn’t make sense. If you open a McDonald’s in Milwaukee you can’t outsource those jobs to Bangladesh, for example.

I also say if corporations want lower taxes, they’ve got to start paying what they are supposed to. Last year the Democratic House tried to pass a bill that did two things. It provided a fund for 9/11 first responders to obtain healthcare and it would have closed loop-holes in the IRS code that allow corporations to avoid taxes. Republican’s decried it as  a huge tax increase. I complained about it then, and I’m complaining again. Forcing a business to pay their fair share is not a tax increase. It’s tax enforcement.

During the budget debate we often hear people say something like, “My family has to balance its budget. The federal government should too.” Putting aside the fact that most American families are just as in debt as the government is, I wonder why we don’t hear fiscal hawks (mainly conservatives) saying, “I pay my taxes. Corporations should pay their’s too.”

In a time when we’re trying to balance a budget, doesn’t it make sense to ensure the government is getting the tax revenue it’s supposed to? It turns out this isn’t about the budget. As I’ve said before, Republican’s are trying to eliminate government and the services it provides. House Republican’s have put forth spending cuts that would take $600 million from the IRS. Every expert says if you take $600 million from IRS enforcement, you lose $4-$6 billion in tax revenue. How is that fiscally responsible. It’s not, but it does get the IRS off the backs of the wealthy. It gets the IRS off the backs of Congress so they can avoid taxes. How much longer will it be before we hear another Congressman “forgot” to pay thousands of dollars in taxes on something.  We need to get real. Fiscal responsibility is going to require 4 things: reform of Social Security, reform of Medicare, cutting Defense spending, and tax increases targeted at those who can pay more. Until I see Republicans or Democrats or both do those 4 things, I won’t take any of them seriously.

Fear And Loathing In Conservatism

Will the Obama myths ever go away? I’m just getting tired of hearing about them. Is Obama a U.S. citizen? YES. I don’t care if he was born in Kenya. I don’t think he was but let’s look at it this way. Right now any kid born to an American citizen gets citizenship. Before 1986 this was true if certain criteria were met. One is that the parent had to live in the U.S. for ten years, five after the age of 14. Obama was born 3 months before his mother’s 19th birthday. So even if he was born in Mongolia he was on the bubble of U.S. citizenship. We should pay attention to the intent of the law. The intent is that a person raised in a foreign country who has no real understanding of American values shouldn’t be able to be President. Obama was raised in this country, with American values. Why two years into his presidency is this still an issue. Furthermore his birth certificate was released and analyzed. Why are we still talking about this?

My favorite myth is that Obama is a Muslim. This myth is ridiculous and offensive. First, it is ridiculous that Pres. Obama is a Muslim. He has spent his life talking about how he is a Christian. He has attended Christian churches, and we’re supposed to believe that it was all a conspiracy to conceal the fact that he is actually a Muslim. That’s a pretty far-fetched claim. More importantly, it is offensive because it shouldn’t matter? Is a Muslim unfit to serve in public office. There was a big controversy when Keith Ellison was sworn in while placing his hand on a copy of the Koran.  Ellison is a Muslim, shouldn’t he be sworn in using the Koran? The entire reason the Bible has been used at swearing-in ceremonies is that it is held sacred. We have been a predominately Christian nation in terms of our population so it made sense. Keith Ellison isn’t a Christian. How would it make sense to have someone sworn in on a text he doesn’t hold sacred.  I don’t care if they are a member of the Church of Seuss and want to be sworn in on a copy of The Cat In The Hat. Swearing on sacred text is supposed to have meaning to the person taking the oath, not to us. The idea is that they are not only subject to the people in their oath, but to God. The “Founding Fathers” that are often cited by the conservatives in this country took great pains to separate religion and the government. The idea was that any person of any religion can be President. Religion should not be a test to determine who can serve. So, why are we still talking about this?

We’re talking about it because conservatives are scared. Since the beginning of Pres. Obama’s campaign we started hearing the myths. The myths were easy enough to invent, but they all lead back to one thing. These people don’t like the President because he has African heritage. I say African heritage because I don’t like that anyone with an African ancestor is “black”. Most African-Americans also have some white genetics in their history. We need to move past the idea that you have darker skin so you are different. When it comes to American Conservatives, like the Tea Party movement they just seem afraid of the possibilities that stem from a black man being President. They don’t like the idea that a Muslim can be a great public servant. Those feelings in the moderate conservatives lead to the crazy paranoia in the ultra conservative. It leads to the people who think all Muslims are violent. It leads to the question of whether Pres. Obama can be seen as an “angry, black man.” That’s a question that was actually discussed across cable news. Would we have asked it if there wasn’t a stereotype of the “angry, black man?” We wouldn’t. That stereotype exists because there was a huge movement of angry black men. They didn’t like being treated as second-class citizens, when they were treated as citizens at all. Can you argue with that?

The political science definition of a “conservative” basically says that they do not want change. They are happy with the current conditions. The election of Pres. Obama was not the status quo. The myths easily grew from that place. The American public has to stand up and question these claims. Does it make sense that the President would hide his secret “Muslim” identity for a lifetime just to become President? Does it really make sense that a mother would engage in a conspiracy to provide her son with American citizenship by forging a birth certificate? Would she go to such lengths as to report his birth to newspapers in Hawaii? She wasn’t even 19 years old. Common sense would tell us that it’s not true.

The Tea Party, and Conservatives across this country are being pushed by a force they don’t want to see.  Big Business has benefited from the push for lower taxes and de-regulation. Most of the people in Tea Party protests haven’t benefited at all.  The current Republican attack on everyone from teachers to public broadcasting is hurting this country, but benefitting those who have the money to support campaigns.  We need true reform in our political process or the fear and loathing will continue to push this country in the wrong direction.