Category Archives: rants

when i need to blow some steam…

marriage equality in the midwest…

I came across this gem of a guest column on Facebook earlier today (it can be found on the Indy Star website here).  The writer takes issue with IU’s president, Michael McRobbie, declaring the university’s intention to join the Indiana Freedom coalition, in opposition to the proposed gay-marriage ban now before the stage legislature:

Higher education once involved the pursuit of truth. Our universities (uni– meaning “one” and veritas – meaning “truth”) were concerned with creating an educational environment where the greatest questions of life could be pursued in an open environment where critical thinking and honest debate were an integral part of the process. And while the outcome might result in a difference of perspective, students were encouraged to demonstrate a healthy dose of tolerance for others who may see things differently. Back then, tolerance meant the ability to respectfully disagree.

It seems those days are long gone. Consider the recent actions of Michael McRobbie, president of Indiana University. McRobbie publicly declared IU’s opposition to the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Why would the president of one of our leading universities unilaterally express opposition to an institution that has served us well for several millennia? It seems “the lack of tolerance implicit in the proposed amendment runs counter to IU’s deeply held values.” McRobbie says the amendment would “codify an intolerance.”

Welcome to the political left’s new definition of tolerance. Instead of embracing the opportunity to engage the university in a healthy dialogue on this important issue, we simply receive an edict from the emperor. So much for an open-minded discussion and critical thinking about marriage and its vital role in a free society. Forget the invitations to leaders on both sides of the issue who could have been invited to campus to share their unique perspective on the future of marriage and the family. No chance for public policy debates, term papers submitted by students, speeches offered in class and a host of other meaningful educational opportunities that could have been seized. All we get is an edict. Anyone who disagrees is obviously a homophobic, bigoted, mean-spirited moron. End of discussion.

McRobbie’s actions are a disgrace to higher education and an insult to Indiana University’s faculty and student body. We don’t send our sons and daughters to our state universities to be told what to believe, let alone to be insulted by the president for not sharing the same beliefs about marriage. It’s a crime that the many strong arguments for protecting the institution of marriage will never be heard simply because of the intolerance and bigotry of our university thought police. This is not higher education. It’s indoctrination and bullying. Our students and taxpayers deserve better.

Ron Johnson Jr.

Executive Director

Indiana Pastors Alliance

Did you catch all that?  Because that was a lot of idiotic ruminating crowded into four short paragraphs.

To begin — and given that he’s criticizing the quality of the educational environment here at IU, I don’t consider it pedantic at all to nitpick this — he gets the etymology of “university” wrong.  While veritas is indeed part of IU’s motto (Lux et veritas, if you were wondering), it is not, in fact, a root of the word university.  That word comes instead directly from the Latin universitas, which translates roughly to “all turned into one.”  That is, a group of individuals joined into a single body.  It shares the same spirit as the United States’ former, unofficial motto, e pluribus unum — “from many, one.”

Aside from this stylistic quibble, there are several issues with the substance of his overall argument, all of which stem from this rhetorical question in paragraph two:

“Why would the president of one of our leading universities unilaterally express opposition to an institution that has served us well for several millennia?”

Let’s first consider the notion that marriage — as he defines and defends it — “has served us well for several millennia.”  I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that when he says “us”, he means… well… men.  Because to my knowledge, the institution of marriage has historically served to treat woman as property, keep them subjugated to male authority, make them ashamed of their bodies and inherent sexuality, and turn them into little more than live-in housekeepers and incubators of offspring.  Then there’s his — and so much of the Christian community’s — convenient omission of the fact that “biblical marriage” is much more complicated and sordid than they’d have us believe.

Next, there’s the intriguing assertion that support for expanding the legal definition of marriage is necessarily equivalent to antipathy towards his “biblical” definition.  Which is just nonsense.

Further, Johnson clearly believes that by announcing the University’s opposition to HRJ6, McRobbie has effectively shut down any debate on the subject here at IU.  Which is even greater nonsense.  McRobbie’s announcement has absolutely zero impact on discussions, debates, class assignments or any other learning activities regarding this — or any — public policy issue.  He simply does not have that power.  Really, all McRobbie has done is reflect, and reaffirm, the University’s non-discrimation policy.  IU has a vested interest in promoting and defending an environment in which a multitude of backgrounds and identities are not only welcomed, but treated equally under the law.  McRobbie knows this, and it would be irresponsible of him not to voice opposition to this bill.

Finally — and this is the part I love best — Johnson complains that McRobbie has made this proclamation “unilaterally”.  That the rest of us have simply received and “edict from the emperor.”  As if he awoke one morning and decided to announce the university’s position without telling anyone.  As if the board of trustees would not have been consulted.  I guess it would be appropriate to point out that the University’s faculty council voted unanimously to support Freedom Indiana, and that McRobbie wants the staff and student councils to consider similar resolutions as well.  That hardly sounds like a dictator seeking to cut off debate.

*****

It isn’t news to anyone paying attention that people like Pastor Johnson are on the wrong side of history.  Columns like these — in all their “look at us, we’re victims of a terrible secular world out to destroy people of faith” glory — are little more than the desperate cries of an ideology on the losing end of cultural evolution.

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in response to the embassy attacks…

To the members of the Muslim community who saw fit to attack the U.S. embassies in Cairo and Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya —

This is what you were protesting:

This god-awful, piss-poor, wretched excuse for film-making.  That is what compelled you to protest.  Granted, I think it warrants protest as well, but in my case it’s because, as a struggling artist, I consider it a crime against nature that any money, time, or energy was actually expended creating such a pathetic and worthless pile of cinematic horse-shit.  Speaking only for myself, if I’m going to bother protesting a film, I’m going to at least make sure it’s well-made.

Now, I realize that the quality of the material is irrelevant to you.  What matters is that your prophet was depicted (and pretty pejoratively, fair enough), which is against your religion.  Fine.  But here’s the thing — your reaction is wholly, in every way possible, without justification.  Because whether you like it or not, you are now a part of the modern world.  And there are consequences, as you’ve probably noticed, to being a part of the modern world:

1.)  Your religious beliefs are fair game.  Any beliefs, for that matter.  Fair game.  For anyone.  The president and secretary of state have made nice statements about how we “reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” but the fact of the matter is we do it all the time.  And again, it’s not just religious beliefs.  We reserve the right to mock, belittle, impugn, and just plain laugh at anyone’s opinions, beliefs, and worldviews that may or may not agree with our own.  It’s called freedom of speech.  While you may still try to infringe upon that right in your neck of the woods, we in the United States will treasure, defend, and exercise it to the very end, so you should probably get used to that.  Religion has its own protections, of course.  We are equally (if not more) devoted to our freedom of religion.  And that leads me to my second point.

2.)  Freedom of religion means freedom of belief, as well as the free exercise thereof.  Your exercise.  Not anyone else’s.  You do not get to force individuals of other faith communities (or no faith community at all) to abide by your religious precepts, and you certainly don’t get to exact punishment on them if they don’t.  Don’t worry, I get what’s going on.  We have religious zealots here in the United States who don’t understand that distinction either.  And, every now and then, they engage in their own violence and blow up an abortion clinic or two.  But would you like to guess how much additional respect they earn for their religious beliefs by engaging in the violence?  Absolutely zero.  In fact, they become that much more marginalized, ridiculed, and dismissed as being unfit for society (in addition to being criminals, of course).  Because we recognize in a liberal, democratic society that no amount of moral offense is a justification for violence.  Furthermore, we acknowledge that we have our own individual responsibility to avoid and shield ourselves from things likely to offend us.  My mother does not visit seancody.com.  I do not read Focus on the Family newsletters.

There’s a popular meme that surfaces every now and then on Facebook that follows the general rhetorical setup of “Against gay marriage?  Don’t get one… Against abortion?  Don’t have one…” and so on and so forth.  Perhaps we should add to the list “Against crappy movies that portray a religious figure in a negative way?  DON’T WATCH THE GOD-DAMN MOVIE”

As a final thought, please consider this:  even as derogatory as the portrayal of Mohammed is in that film, I can pretty much guarantee you that not a single American’s view of Islam was going to be influenced by it.  Why?  Because the film sucks.  And if any American was influenced by that film, my guess is that their own worldview is so warped they probably watched it while preparing a homemade bomb for their neighborhood abortion clinic (see how I brought it full circle there?).

But do you know what does have a very real, immediate, and lasting impact on the world’s perception of your religion and those who practice it?  Your decision to react to every perceived threat to the holiness of your faith with violence.  Every time you react in this way, you justify the prejudices of everyone in this world who views your culture as immature, volatile, downright medieval, and not worthy of being treated as an equal partner on the world stage.

And while you may not care much now about how esteemed you are in the non-Islamic world, you might stop and think of what that will mean for you the next time an American president decides he needs to invade your country for oil.

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storming the barricades…

Around the middle of the fourteenth century, French peasants, angered by the corruption and all-around uselessness of their country’s ruling class, erupted in violent revolt.  In one especially infamous incident, an angry mob roasted a knight on a spit, in full view of his wife and children, then proceeded to force-feed them the flesh of their husband and father, respectively.  After which, of course, a dozen or so of the mob’s men took turns raping the new widow then submitted her and her children to their own torturous deaths.

Now that’s class warfare.

Clearly, Congressional Republicans set the bar much lower, at least judging by the repeated accusations flung at the president in response to his plan to get Americans back to work and the federal budget back to black.  From their alarmed protests, one could almost be led to believe that President Obama went forth from the Rose Garden Monday leading a charge on the Hamptons, pitchfork in hand.

But when cooler minds take a look at the president’s plan, what they find instead of raw, red-meat populism is a reasoned, rational, comprehensive approach to righting the country’s fiscal course.  Indeed, what the president has managed to deliver is what economists across the political spectrum have been calling for all summer:  short-term stimulus (in this case, the American Jobs Act) coupled with a long-term deficit-reduction strategy.

You can almost hear the screaming hordes, lustily demanding agricultural subsidy reform and radio spectrum auctions.

But of course, sensible minor reforms like these aren’t the holdup in the plan.  What really has Republicans stoked – and their wealthy supporters along with them – is that the president’s vision of tax reform actually includes making them pay a little more.  It is truly shameful, they claim, to correct the federal budget’s imbalance by asking a greater sacrifice from the one segment of our society that has sailed through the Great Recession practically unharmed.

At best, one could possibly argue that, by proposing to increase taxes on the wealthy, the president is merely stoking class resentment in a desperate attempt to improve his reelection chances.  But arguing this ignores two facts.

First, the president didn’t create this resentment.  But he is – at last – acknowledging it.  Americans aren’t stupid, and they’ve known for a long time that their incomes have stagnated, if not altogether disappeared, while the rich have continued to get richer.  And they don’t approve.

In a study by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely conducted in 2005, and published earlier this year, it was shown that while Americans assume wealth distribution to be more equal than it really is, their ideal distribution is even more equal still.  In fact, the study’s participants preferred evil, socialist Sweden to the US in a blind side-by-side comparison.

But second, and more relevant to the petty politics of the moment, is the fact that accusing the president of waging class warfare would be a rather (amusing-if-it-weren’t-so-tragically) hypocritical charge on the part of Republicans.

They are the party, after all, who held the middle-class hostage last December in their battle to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the richest among us – and the entire country hostage this summer, repeatedly walking out of debt-ceiling negotiations over any mention of raising taxes at the top.

And it was during those very negotiations that Senator Cornyn declared on the floor of the Senate that 51 percent of American households didn’t pay any income tax in 2009, saying “to show how out of whack things have gotten, 30 percent of American households actually made money from the tax system by way of refundable tax credits.”

Now that’s injustice.

Right?

The fact is, those of us in the bottom ninety-percent have already paid dearly for this recession – in jobs and wages lost; in tax dollars bailing out a financial industry that is now turning record profits; and in facing down a future that is less secure, and less promising, than before.  If the top ten want to complain about raising their marginal rates and taking away their estate tax protections, let them.  Then raise their taxes anyway.

And to Senator Cornyn:  I was one of those Americans who paid no income tax for 2009.  The reason being my adjusted gross income was just over $3000.  In fact, I received a small refund due to the Making Work Pay and Earned Income Credits – money you can be sure I put right back into the local economy.

If, however, you feel that some of those hard-earned dollars should have gone to the government rather than stayed in my pocket, feel free to suggest a ballpark figure.  I’ll be happy to write a check.

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campaign stupidity, and immigration policy…

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I have a penchant for writing public officials on issues that matter to me.  Below is my — what I’m sure will be inconsequential — email to the Obama for America 2012 campaign.

It turns out, on August 1, an email was sent to Obama supporters in New Mexico — by OFA New Mexico’s state director, Ray Sandoval — which encouraged them to read a blog post stridently defending the debt ceiling compromise.  It also turns out that –in an act of such political brilliance you can’t possibly shield your eyes from its glory — the blog post ridicules the Nobel-laureate economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as a “political rookie”, as well as calls to task the “Firebagger Lefty blogosphere.”  You can read the original HuffingtonPost reporting here.

Now, not to make this personal, but some of mine and my husband’s most intense arguments are inevitably waged over the subject of the president’s liberal credentials and his commitment (or, rather, lack thereof) to progressive causes.  Personally, I tend to come down on the pragmatic side.  I count myself among those who are not suffering from buyer’s remorse — thank you very much — and feel like I got exactly the president I voted for.  That does not for a second mean I don’t have any complaints whatsoever with the man’s job performance.  But I continue to believe that he is doing the best he can under incredibly trying circumstances, and that a little disappointment is par for the course in politics as messy (downright ugly, really) as ours.

That being the case, I don’t exactly appreciate it when an individual who acts as the face of the president’s re-election for an entire state is so incredibly tone-deaf and obtuse as to “hippie punch” (which I’ve learned is the current expression for liberal-bashing) in this way.  So, naturally, I make my non-appreciation known in writing:

To whom it may concern,

I am a proud and steadfast supporter of the president and his re-election. And it is out of my feelings of support that I offer my two cents: the campaign would be well-advised to dismiss Ray Sandoval as soon as possible.

I don’t consider myself “far left,” and I share the frustration of many in the president’s administration with the constant stream of criticism from that end of the political spectrum. But it is one thing to concede that you’ll never satisfy your most liberal base — it is entirely another to actively bash them.

I appreciate Katie Hogan’s statement that the views expressed in Mr Sandoval’s email do not represent the views of the campaign. But as long as Mr Sandoval is a part of OFA, he represents the campaign, and, by extension, the president. And that is a matter of fact whether he is a canvassing volunteer or the national campaign manager. It is certainly within Mr Sandoval’s responsibilities to defend the president and his record against criticism. But surely he understands that the president is best served when actions on behalf of his campaign are executed with good sense, reasonableness, and dignity.

The campaign must reflect the values and character of its candidate. I assume OFA knows this, which leaves you with a choice: either Mr Sandoval is dismissed; or his actions, in fact, do represent the president and his views. If the latter is indeed true, then even a political rookie can tell you the president is in for a rough re-election.

I appreciate your time and attention,

Eric Anderson, Jr

*****

In other news — and on another subject that led to a heated argument with my husband — the Obama administration announced today a new policy regarding immigrant deportation.  I haven’t had a chance yet to delve too deeply into it, but it’s at least initially encouraging.

Essentially, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will exercise broader discretion in determining “low-priority” cases.  In other words, cases that don’t ultimately have an impact on national security.

The majority of responses to the new policy had to do with the DREAM Act and renewed hope for its passage.  But I was celebrating the new policy for another reason — the very good chance that Anthony John Makk may not face deportation after all.  And that would be a wonderful thing.

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and these people govern our country…?

This is going to be a fairly short entry, but a little news item has me particularly perturbed.  From ‘Politico’

Impeaching President Barack Obama “needs to happen,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told a local tea party group, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday.

Burgess spoke, the paper said, in response to an attendee’s suggestion that the GOP-controlled House use impeachment to stop Obama from “pushing his agenda.”

“It needs to happen, and I agree with you it would tie things up,” Burgess reportedly responded. “No question about that.”

When the Star-Telegram’s reporter asked Burgess about the comment, he said the House needs to do what it can to stop the president.

“We need to tie things up,” Burgess said. “The longer we allow the damage to continue unchecked, the worse things are going to be for us.”

Burgess, an obstetrician who is in his fifth term as a lawmaker, is the latest House Republican to call for the president’s impeachment. Last month, Iowa Rep. Steve King said Obama “would be impeached” if he allowed the nation to default.

Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said it would be “an impeachable offense” for Obama to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. In April, former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein drafted articles of impeachment in hopes that House Republicans would introduce them.

So, Rep. Burgess considers impeachment to be a procedural roadblock.  He does.  He has taken the Constitution’s most severe repercussion for the perpetration of high crimes and misdemeanors — such as, say, lying about a White House-ordered break-in or illegally selling arms to a declared enemy of the United States — and declared it to be a means to simply “tie things up” because he disagrees with the president’s agenda.

Men like this control part of our government.

I have nothing else to say.

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default for the masses…

Of all the debt ceiling antics that have drifted into the absurd — the incessant posturing; the frightening lack of maturity; the fact that a passel of fanatical “conservatives” can hold the nation’s credit hostage in their single-minded attempt to deny the president a second term — it has still remained largely distant.  Infuriating, yes.  But far, far away, out in that cesspool called Washington, where looking for evidence of common purpose and higher patriotism only reveals one to be hopelessly naive.

But today it got personal.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about this before.  I’m sure I could have come to this conclusion had I followed the logic.  That is, it has been said repeatedly that any delay in the government’s ability to meet its obligations would result in higher borrowing costs for the government.  Which would then, of course, be passed on to the corporate, and individual, borrower.  Or, as Nicholas Kristof put it in Sunday’s Times

Yet even that brief lapse [a technical default] in 1979 raised interest payments in the United States. Terry L. Zivney, a finance professor at Ball State University and co-author of a scholarly paper about the episode, says the 1979 default increased American government borrowing costs by 0.6 of a percentage point indefinitely.

Any deliberate and sustained interruption this year could have a greater impact. We would see higher interest rates on mortgages, car loans, business loans and credit cards.

So here’s where I get confessional.

I have a terrible credit history.  Pretty abysmal, really.  It all started when, during my freshman year at IU, I got myself a CapitalOne card so that I could purchase a cell-phone.  The card, however, quickly became an enabler of many, silly little trips to the mall and too many nights of eating out.  It was soon followed by another card.

Clearly, I had ignored all the advice given to us at orientation (ie, when the orientation leaders pulled the credit card offers from one student’s “welcome bag” and ripped them up for all to see).  Clearly, I believed myself to be more capable of handling the responsibilities of credit than my peers.

Clearly, I was mistaken.

To keep a long story short, it didn’t take much time for me to fall woefully behind on payments, to the extent that, between over-credit and past due fees, I had no hope of ever crawling out of the hole I had dug.  Finally, by the spring of 2004, CapitalOne had given up on me and offered a charge-off settlement, which I gladly accepted.  Yes, it killed my credit rating.  But that’s life, right?

After taking a credit break, and living cash-only for a few years (which was made far easier by the fact I worked mostly for tips waiting tables), I took a chance and applied for another card.  This time, I pledged, I would stay far below the limit, and charge only as much as I could pay off within a month… or two… well, I’d do the best I could.  And I’d slowly repair my credit history in the process.

Surprisingly enough, this went pretty well — until the fall of 2008.  Incidentally, it had very little to do with the economic nose-dive, and everything to do with the fact that a particular source of my income — a retired professor I assisted — passed away, leaving me few options but to stretch what savings I had and live on borrowed money until I could secure new employment.

I’ve never quite rebounded from that glut of necessity-driven credit spending.  I’ve dutifully kept up payments — if not always on time, and more often than not it’s only the minimum payment.  But I’ve committed myself to paying back the debt I’ve accrued.  And occasionally I’ve even paid off a card in full — only to come upon an emergency situation where I have to put a balance back on the card to get by.

So, yeah.  Not an entirely stellar credit history.  But I would wager my experience with credit cards is not all that uncommon.  Am I proud of it?  Hell no.  I take it as no small disappointment that I couldn’t exhibit more self-control when I was younger.  I mean, sure, I agree with those who would say “what company in their right mind would give a credit card to an eighteen-year old with practically no income?!?”  And that’s a fair point.  But that’s water under the bridge.  I screwed myself, and my low credit score, and high interest rates are simply what I have to deal with.  I accept that, because it’s what I did to myself.

Now back to the debt ceiling…

I accept the repercussions of my own actions and poor decisions.  But I will be damned if I will put up with an interest rate hike simply because a few jackasses in Congress are so myopically focused on reducing federal spending that they’re willing to kill the country with the cure.

So here’s what I say to them:  if the federal government defaults, so do I.  I have a hard enough time keeping on top of the bills I’ve created for myself.  If my (already usurious) rates are raised even more because of the lack of sense in Washington, D.C., I’m just going to call it quits.  I will let my lending institutions know, and they can deal with it as they please.  Damn my credit rating — it’s been in the toilet for years and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Do I expect this will matter in the long run?  Other than actually getting rid of my debt, but in the most irresponsible way possible, probably not.

I imagine the only way it would matter is this:  if enough people sent the same exact message to their lenders, and if those lenders took the threat seriously enough to (maybe, possibly) pledge to withhold all campaign donations to any member of Congress with their head too far up their ass to accept a deficit-reduction package that includes revenue increases.

Any takers?

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the gay enthusiasm gap…

See, stories like this really infuriate me.

Now granted, I’m not in any way out to dismiss or diminish the disappointment felt by large portions of the queer community.  I feel that same disappointment to a certain degree.  The President’s insistence that he supports same-sex “civil unions” but not same-sex “marriage” just seems like catering to the country’s religious communities.  His administration’s argument that they are appealing the DADT ruling because they are bound to uphold and defend existing law wears incredibly thin.  But let’s be honest — we have in the White House the most gay-supportive president in the nation’s history.  That’s an admittedly low bar to overcome, true, but we should take a deep breath and think about the long-term repercussions of taking out our frustrations against the President and his party at the ballot box.

The plea of Democrats to the queer community is, basically, the plea to unenthusiastic Democratic voters of all orientations — the change hasn’t come fast enough, but stick with us and it will come eventually.  It’s not exactly a heart-stirring battle cry — it’s simply the cold hard truth.

Because, let’s face it, while we may feel as though Democrats have, time and time again, thrown us under the bus, we know for a fact that Republicans are determined to keep us at the back of the bus.  So if there is really a significant enough part of the queer community that is willing to hand the House to Republicans out of their sense of self-righteous, victimized frustration, then they will be the ones to blame when whatever meager gains we have won disappear into thin air and the issues still facing us are dropped to the bottom of the “to-do” list.

If we abandon the President at this moment simply because we haven’t gotten enough, fast enough, all we’re doing is shooting ourselves in the dick.

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