Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not National News

Maybe they should start a series called "The Real Homeowners of Arizona." Because this is no more than a local drama.

I'm sure some editor is interested in this story if only to highlight the ongoing narrative that the free speech of white, patriotic Americans is being stifled by some mysterious "other," while in reality, this is nothing but a continuation of Americans freely forming and joining associations in order to oppress themselves. We all have to deal with zoning or building codes, but if you're into self-expression, why freely join a group whose purpose is to ensure compliance and conformity?

And by that, I mean "homeowners associations." Organizations of nanny state, NIMBYists who undoubtedly (being Arizonans living in a subdivision ruled by a homeowners association) share many macro political views, as long as those veiws don't violate subdivision rules.

Interesting that this individual was an actual member of his homeowners association. More interesting is that he ceased his participation when faced with a disagreement with another member. Was sticking around and advocating to change the rules not an option? Most interesting is that "teh communizt, socialismz, terroristimz" ACLU has now filed papers defending his rights to display a historic American flag now (incorrectly) associated with the Tea Party*. I'd wager right-wing radio will happily omit that part of the story.

Because this isn't the first time the rights of patriotic Americans have been trampled by homeowners associations - though if all you listened to was talk radio, you'd think the gubbmint or teh ebil libralz were the ones coming for your flag.

The more truthful and unfortunate narrative is a sign of current American times: person participates in group, has disagreement, person gets upset, stomps feet, takes ball & goes home, calls TV stations. A reality or news show is just the next step. Just like the former governor of Alaska.


(* Some of us hoisted the Gadsden round about the time the PATRIOT Act was signed into law by the last President....)

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Tennessee Burning

Unsurprisingly, a fire at the construction site of a planned Murfreesboro, TN mosque has been ruled an arson.

Considering our troubled history in the South with fire and houses of religious worship, there is no secret what message this action is designed to send.

To me, there is no secret where this behavior comes from.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Restoration



Thinking about Oyster's post today, I was reminded of something.

I live in a city full of people who have been restoring honor to America for at least five years. They are saving this Republic, and they are starting with their city first.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Narrative Vs. Truth

In America these days, the narrative always wins. Even. In. Sports.

The "Mark Richt Hot Seat" meme, and every attendant aspect of it, might be THE dumbest, most reality-denialist story currently circulating around a nation of dumb, reality-denialist stories. And, yes, I am including all the political stories I've discussed over the past 4 years.

Yes, I condsider it dumber than the lobotomy-inducing "Prezident-Obamar-Iz-Teh-Mooslim" story, because at least Obama's middle name has a Middle Eastern origin. I also consider it dumber than the jaw-slackening "Teh-Earl-In-Teh-Gulf-It-Beez-VANISHINGZ!!" story, because at least some folks don't really know what 200 million gallons of oil looks like in the Gulf of Mexico.

But even while the MRHS narrative doesn't have the same stakes as a lot of the current political BS, it does have the distinction of being the MOST repeated media fantasy backed up by the absolute zero quantity of fact. Out of the hundreds of thousands of UGA alumni, and the millions of SEC and college football fans across the world, there may be, at most, 300 individuals who seriously think that the guy on track to become the winningest coach in University of Georgia history should be canned as head coach of UGA's football team.

And they aren't the kind of 300 you'd expect to find at Thermopalye.

To believe this narrative is worthy of any credibility, you'd literally have to hand-pick your focus group from select trailer parks, Atlanta douchebag hangouts, a few envious Florida State boosters, and at least one unhinged Alabama talk radio lunatic.

I usually like the folks at Sports Illustrated. Hell, I usually read Staples. But it troubles me deeply that a story this easily refudiated would make it through the editorial process at a major US media publication.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Nation Tries to Forget

But Mac McClelland reminds us how this nation glosses over our own history. If those who don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them, what of the nation that refuses to accept the basic facts of what is going on right now?

Because the oil hasn't "vanished." And I drive past reminders of the flood in New Orleans.

Every. Single. Day.



HT: Jeffrey.

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Closing In On a Full House



And tonight is A Howling in the Wires.



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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One of Those Moments

And just think, there are some people in this world who will never walk out of their lunch break with a smile on their face after seeing something like this.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ron Paul on Demagougery

Guess which issue one of the last real conservatives is discussing? And guess how he defends it? Like a real conservative ought to. I wonder where they have all gone.

I don't agree with him on a whole lot, but I'd rather talk to rational actors than the current crop of fantasy-landers running the GOP.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.


HT: The Daily Dish

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The Paper Trail

If every district had someone like the American Zombie, I can only hope that our nation's politics would be very different. The story he's been on regarding the Democratic frontrunner for US Congress from New Orleans is stunning. It is a shame this story has been ignored so far by so many in the local media.

Especially this latest revelation.

The primary is Saturday. And yet, this is one of the quietest stories in Orleans Parish.

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One Constant Volume

Our nation has an information problem. We turn our backs on truth and follow rumor and innuendo. Intellect and reason are too easily dismissed for emotion. And too many people tune in to the national telenovela we call the 24 hour news cycle. A lot of folks ignore what goes on down their block so they can better focus on some issue far away.

Need proof? The oil hasn't really "vanished." There isn't really a mosque at "Ground Zero." Our troops are still in Iraq, and still haven't found the Weapons of Mass Destruction. Our President is not a Muslim, and he was not born in Kenya or Indonesia. Yet there are so many people who will believe every one of those things, while their local schools fall to pieces.

And, no, I couldn't care less where Michelle Obama goes on vacation or where John Kerry parks his yacht. I still don't think you can advertise oil off the beach; you have to actually send people and machines to do that. I still don't think we can round up and deport every illegal immigrant; they will keep coming here as long as we keep ignoring the people who pay them to do so. If you want marriage to come with specific government-sponsored perks, you can't keep other consenting adults from recieving those same perks because they are homosexuals. Hell, I'm single - where the F are my government sponsored perks?

In such an atmosphere of disinformation, fabrication and pettiness - especially where patently ludicrous ideas are entertained in the interest of "balance" - you will pardon those of us who constantly remind you of the facts you do not want to hear. Especially around this time of the year, when a lot of journalists who live in New York, Washington and Los Angeles like to tell some Disneyfied version of what happened five years ago.

Fifty-One Percent of New Orleans is Above Sea Level. New Orleans did not flood from torrential rains. Hurricane Katrina damaged but did not "hit" New Orleans. Storm damage and flooding was magnified by man-made factors affecting both the environment that limits flooding from storm surges and the engineering designed specifically to protect this city from flooding.

The response to the emergency was heroic on a personal level and disasterous on a government level. There is no one easy explanation; there is no one official to blame. It is a complex story that is constantly oversimplified and presented incorrectly to an American public too willing to believe the media pundits they claim not to trust.

So, yes, every time someone get it wrong, they will and should be loudly corrected in the most public of ways. Please do not expect those of us who have the facts to apologize for this behavior, or to tone it down.

(HT: Jeffrey's FB links.)

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It Was Worse for Them

I can't believe I hadn't seen Glory at Sea before the other day. Of course it would be this week.

It ain't easy to watch, but if you have about half an hour, this is an amazing short film.

I'm posting the link mainly for those of you who don't live in New Orleans. This is something to see.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Polite Re-Segregation

Maybe we can turn the clock back on our own society; maybe we can kneecap the spirit of the Constitution, if we just ask nicely. "No, we're not bigots," we can say, "our society just singles out specific groups and assigns collective blame for crimes they didn't commit because of our feelings." Or maybe we can just admit to a wholesale surrender to emotion, xenophobia and fear over reason and intellect.

It is like telling blacks or Jews that they have every right to move into the neighborhood, but wouldn't they really be happier in some other neighborhood, not too far away, where the neighbors' sensistivities won't be offended? And--as Charles mentioned in both columns and obviously feels is important--the governor will even help you find one. That's how badly people don't want you around.

No offense.


But remember what happens when we take steps to appease the oversensitive. Especially when those individuals are plainly wrong in substance and rhetoric. Even if you do abandon your plans to excercise your Constitutional and property rights to "keep peace" in the neighborhood, don't expect the same resale value on your home. Because if you do, there's nothing you can do about it on the back end.

There's a reason "seperate" was called out as "inherently unequal." In my America, we used to celebrate that decision as one of our civilization's greatest triumphs over the failings of the past. Those who argued against that decision were considered a fringe element that would come around in time. Now they've taken over the debate.

Those easily offended people who wish to convince us that we can politely resegregate will appreciate your gesture if you do what they say. They asked nicely, after all. Didn't they?

And once we surrender to their demands, and they have what they asked for, we will never have to feel threatened by them again. Will we?

This is about far more than the hallowed ground of a Burlington Coat Factory. This about far more than a zoning issue in lower Manhattan. I remain appalled at how many people I know and respect who have ended up on the absolute wrong side of this conversation.

Because make no mistake, there is a wrong side. There is no moral equivalency here. And the folks on that wrong side are going to keep hearing about how wrong they are every chance I get.

(HT's: The Daily Dish)

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Local-er Politics

More on the Democratic front-runner for New Orleans' congressional seat at American Zombie, and the non-profit organizations in his orbit.

Just wow.

Do you ever get the feeling you're in the wrong business?

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Embarassing Science

Some folks just can't handle the truth.

More proof that the "vanishing" oil theory is the thing that brings politicians, pundits, and big business together under one big tent. They would rather eat poisoned food, breathe poisoned air, and drink poisoned water than lose stock value or arguments.

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Guilt By Association

Like every past episode of bigotry, the zoning issue in lower Manhattan will one day be viewed with the shame it deserves. Either that, or certain folks will pretend it never happened.

Virtually all religious traditions have committed violent and unseemly acts in recent memory, and we would not hold Protestants, Catholics, or Jews responsible for the heinous acts of a few of their adherents.


This is why I don't look at Southern white Protestants and immediately think "Klan," even though that xenophobic and Christian-themed terrorist organization murdered, raped, tortured, pillaged, burned and intimidated its way across this nation for decades, aided and abetted by other right-thinking, God-fearing individuals.

On a more personal note, I'm a Catholic. This whole episode has reminded me how problematic it is to attribute collective guilt to adherents of a religion based on the hideous crimes of a few self-associated individuals.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Syntax and Shorthand

Syntax kills. I learn this lesson all the time. Some are worse than others, though. Mine often lead to hilarious imagery.

Others actively revise historical fact.

Oyster reminds us that, with the 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina*, be on the lookout for glaring reporting errors concerning the event.

Torrential rains did not flood New Orleans. The levees on the Mississippi River did not fail. The levees on Lake Pontchartrain did not fail. Specific communities were inundated by storm surge. New Orleans was inundated when certain specific levees did not perform as specifically designed.

Getting this wrong is like saying terrorists used truck bombs on September 11, or highjacked airliners against Oklahoma City. Saying torrential rains flooded New Orleans is like saying the terrorists cut down the WTC towers with a chainsaw. But I guaran-damn-tee you no one is going to get it that wrong about New York.

Speaking of which, New Orleans isn't the only victim of fact - bending shorthand statments made for uninformative television.

Because there is a sacred Burlington Coat Factory somewhere in lower Manhattan that must not be modified.


* - And several associated failures of government constructed walls designed to keep water out of New Orleans that no one wants to talk about.

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Doing Muslim Stuff

It is too bad so many American "journalists" lack the courage to accurately disect the political misrepresentations of a zoning issue in lower Manhattan. Luckily, the British press is much more sublime.

Contrary to what Mr Gingrich says, in America, Nazis do have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington; a Japanese citizen could unfurl a banner of the rising sun at Pearl Harbor and so on.
...
But for this analogy to work, a mosque must be to 9/11 what a swastika is to the Holocaust. Happily, however, most politicians are reluctant to suggest that mosques are symbols of terrorism, or that Muslims are all terrorists.

(Yeah, that's what we have right-wing radio and internet for...and the Tea Party Express.)

Back to the article:

Instead, the complaint seems to boil down to a vague sense that doing Muslim stuff near ground zero is an unhappy reminder of terrorism...


Emphasis mine.

Just imagine if all religious orders were subjected to such collective scrutiny in this day and age.

(HT: The Daily Dish.)

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Speaking of Cowards...

How the mighty have fallen. Tennessee has represented the SEC East in more SEC title games than any team but Florida. They've won a national championship during their current students' lifetimes. They are only two or three years removed from their last SEC Championship Game. They used to not be afraid to schedule anybody. But not anymore. Tennessee just dropped a wad of cash to run away from the fierce competition of UNC. When you're running away, tail between the legs, from an ACC basketball powerhouse, well, I defer to this Spies Like Us quote:

Col. Rhombus: "Listen, it's my job to get you prepared to go out into the field for combat. Now, I must know right away what I have to work with. I have made my decision."
Fitz-Hume: "What's it say?"
Milbarge: "Pussy!"


What Colonel Rhombus wrote is exactly what Hamilton and Dooley-the-Lesser think about their players and program right now. Tennessee needs to put on their big girl panties and venture out from their stadium more than 4 times per year to play teams that could conceivably beat them, even if they are rebuilding. Tennessee just lost some North Carolina recruits today whether they want to admit it or not.

College football in general needs to stop worshiping at the altar of the BCS and start focusing on giving us the best product they can. I've waffled back and forth on support of things like playoffs or mandatory conference championships but one thing I will always support is 12 real games. Sometimes when you make the schedule so far in advance you end up with some lopsided games but there is absolutely no excuse for a school with a more-than-fair shot at the national title (fair as in clear pathway, not likelihood of walking that pathway) to run away from ANY team.

Even if they do lose, does it matter? Look at Georgia vs. Oklahoma State last year. Georgia loses to Okie State and finishes with one less loss than they would have if they had played a Tulane or UAB. So then instead of playing Clemson in a bowl game, they get slotted against the Aggies. Can you tell me with a straight face that Clemson + UAB is better than Oklahoma State + Texas A&M? I'll take the two good games over the one not-even-a-slam-dunk better game and a snoozefest.

Nobody is losing their First Amendment rights here...

So Dr. Laura has decided to call it quits. I have to be honest. I've never really listened to her. She's on during Clark Howard here. But apparently she repeatedly used the n-word during one of her broadcasts and is coming under fire for it. She has apologized and she isn't necessarily fired but she will not renew her contract. What's funny to me is her reasoning. She claims she wants to "regain [her] First Amendment rights." That just makes me want to shake her and maybe slap her once or twice. You didn't lose your damn rights, lady. If this were one of our European brethren like the UK or France who claim to be a free society, you'd be facing real government censorship right now for using "hate speech." You might even end up on a ban list like fellow radio host Michael Savage. As it stands, you just have to worry about concerned citizens who don't want you on the air and will probably petition private radio stations in some way to take you off the air.

At worst case here, you'll have to deal with the FCC for indecency over public airwaves but then you'd be free to take your act somewhere like satellite radio and use the n-word to your heart's content. You could even sing the "I Hate Zima" song and nobody from the government would stop you. Dr. Laura should consider herself fortunate we have a First Amendment in this country or she could be in really real trouble right about now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

UGA Refudiates Vanishing Oil Theory

With so many of the BP, Government, and Big Media folks trying to convince us that the oil has "vanished" from the Gulf of Mexico, it is good to see that several other scientific organizations are not toeing the company line.

I'm very glad that my alma mater, The University of Georgia, is one of those organizations still interested in the truth. Go, Dawgs.

Woof.

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Crazy College Football Fans

"Football is what Southerners do instead of rioting." - Rick Bragg

Arkansas fans' force multipliers and the SEC-as-car-bombs over at EDSBS.

Is it college football season yet?

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"But it shouldn’t turn us into animals"

Maitri has some suggestions for those who are concerned about the hallowed-ness of Ground Zero.

Because there are real heroes out there who rushed to the nightmare and saved lives. Regardless of religion.

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Required Reading at MMS?

Redirect to Yellow Blog book review.

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Case Study: How to Manufacture a Controversy

Salon examines the origins of our national debate over a zoning issue in lower Manhattan. With links. So many links. Go read the links, and then consider the sources.

Disgusting.

Short story? It is all about the page hits, baby. Publicity, money, & overemotional politics win in our current atmosphere.

There are not two legitimate sides to this story. You have religious freedom, legitimate property rights, and the United States Constitution on one side. On the other side you have nothing more than demagoguery, self-importance, and taking advantage of an emotional reaction.

It would be one thing if it were only the kooky, fringe elements latching onto this. But the publicly recognized leaders of one of our mainstream political organizations?

That so many media-types and individuals continue to find some sort of moral equivalence in this story is a testament to how far our civilization has yet to go and how much work we have yet to do.

(HT: The Daily Dish.)

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Coward

Harry Reid is a coward. He does not deserve another term as a U.S. Senator. In the greatest demonstration of all that the zoning issue in lower Manhattan is nothing more than a steaming pile of manufactured bullshit, Reid - member of a formerly persecuted religious minority himself - panders to those Americans ignorant enough to buy in to the culture of fear.

I knew this would happen. It should not surprise anyone that the most spineless Democratic Senator of all would capitulate so easily to the raving lunacy of the fringe.

I hope every Democratic voter stays home on election day in Nevada.


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The Wrong Questions

KFC franchise owners are complaining about their corporate managers undercutting their brand. The big picture is to justify the continued decline of what was once a giant on the fast-food landscape. I still remember late 80's, early 90's Kentucky Fried Chicken, with mashed potatoes and gravy and those biscuits. I could have lived off those biscuits.

There are a lot of reasons the article discusses in regards to the decline. Marketing strategy, botched online promotions, internal waste of product, and the difference between the corporate office and the francisee.

That's part of the problem: there was zero discussion of product quality or service. To a big corporate entity, especially in America these days, product quality and service just don't seem to be that big of a deal. Marketing is of pinnacle importance, because the focus today is on selling the widget, not the widget itself.

Because even though I was rasied with the branding of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and those biscuits, I haven't darkened the door of a KFC in what feels like decades. Why do I need to? I can get far better chicken and prompt, friendly service at any number of regional chains - Zaxby's, and Caine's stand out noticiably - when I'm outside Orleans Parish. Locally, McHardy's serves up some of the best tasting fried chicken I've ever experienced, Manchu's has outstanding wings, and every Popeye's in New Orleans just brings it when taste is concerned. That's before sitting down at legendary establishments like Lil' Dizzy's, Dunbar's, Dooky's Chase or Willie Mae's Scotch House. Or the Glynn County traditions at Brunswick Station, 4th of May and Grandy's. And dare I fail to mention the irrational yet exhultant joy that is purchasing and consuming any item from the Chick-Fil-A menu.

Against that impressively deep bench of fried-poultry establishments, KFC deigned to make me wait an inordinant amount of time for rubbery fare, despite my upbringing and past devotion to original recipie and extra crispy. The biscuit was stale, as if baked under the heat lamps and left there. I gave them chances at redemption, even in different area codes, to no avail. Product and service were less important than marketing, and when I started to see Taco-Bell's and Pizza Huts sharing buildings with KFC's, I knew it was over.

Because if you screw up fried chicken in the South, I will never trust you to know how to grill it.

And if you think you have to team up with other dining establishments to get me in the door, you need to make sure they have not also been disappointments since Back to the Future III.

The childhood memories had faded, and all I was doing was going through the motions. If I was going to spend my dollar on fried chicken, I decided to focus on other places where that dollar was rewarded.

But y'all keep worrying about how you look on TV. I gave most of that up, too.

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The Local Oligarchies

One of our more laughable but enduring national political narratives is that political beliefs are somehow either "pro-government" OR "pro-business." As if the two are somehow mutually exclusive. This gross oversimplification glosses over serious policy-based conflicts of interest, where government agencies AND the business community collude to restrict freedom.

Three issues locally have brought this into clearer focus recently:

In Louisiana, if you want to make wooden boxes that people get buried in, the law says you have to be a liscenced funeral director. Not only that, but the state board charged with enforcing this ordinance is filled with people who make their living directing funerals and selling boxes that people get buried in. I wonder how many of our tax dollars the state is paying this board to maintain their oligarchy.

In New Orleans, city officials are finally enforcing a series of local ordinances to the letter. This is causing some major headaches, as many of our ordinances are not exactly "user friendly" as written. One wonders if this Byzantine system of permits, ordinances and application processes is one of the reasons this city isn't considered "business friendly?" (I mean, look at how many supermarkets we have to serve our population! Look at where they're located, too.)

Because I'm sure the businesses that worked (or navigated in some other way) their way through the process aren't going to try and advocate for this process to be any easier for their future competition, right?

The third was the You Kids Stop Playing Jazz on My Street Corner ordinance we all found out about earlier this year. Of course, incredible citizen activism has pushed this ordinance into the revision stage.

So it doesn't take much to convince me that the deeper we look into the laws that govern us, the more progress-resistant items will be found, hampering innovation and freedom for someone else's direct monetary benefit. While New Orleans will likely have a number of these, that is one of the things that makes the Crescent City just like every other location in this country.

It is high time people pay as much attention to their local governments and business communities as they do to the national telenovela we hear about every day from Washington, D.C. Because where the President and his family vacation is far less important to me than being able to buy my groceries.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

In Respect to Balance

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present you with the Democratic front-runner for the New Orleans seat in the United States House of Representatives.

I present this link to you in order to balance all the hell I've been giving Republicans lately (not that they don't deserve it), and the "Act Locally" appeals I've been repeating recently.

And, before you ask, No. There is nothing I need to add to this conversation other than the link above. Except maybe the word "wow," and the understatement "this could be bad." If you read it, you will understand why.

Remember, folks, even if you identify as one Party or the other, never, ever let the nominee take your votes for granted.

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Religious Freedom I Still Believe In

I may not be getting all the results I wanted out of the Obama Administration, but this one's big. Despite polling that suggests a majority of Americans would prefer emotional reactions to a controversey manufactured by national Republican leaders for political gain, the President of the United States shows up in a big way to defend religious freedom in America.

And contrary to all the talk from politicians more invested in winning elections than protecting the foundational civil liberties of our Union, this issue is only about religious freedom and legitimate property rights.

Rarely has there been such a clear-cut national issue demonstrating the difference between what is right, Constitutionally and morally speaking, and what is wrong-headed surrender to spur-of-the-moment emotionalism.

Thomas Jefferson helped put the code into our nation's DNA thusly:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written 1777, Enacted 1786



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Friday, August 13, 2010

Bubble Economics

Sometimes a visual helps point out the differences. Ezra Klein at the Washington Post points us to this visual regarding the difference between the Bush taxes and Obama taxes.

They are so different in scope, I absolutely see where the Tea Party charges of socialism and communism come from. < / sarcasm >

In other news, we're still only talking about taxes going back to the levels we saw during the Clinton years - between 36 and 39% top marginal rates. That is, opposed to the "good ole days" of the Truman-Eisenhower era, when top marginal rates were sometimes over 90%.

The tax man also has yet to come to my door and charge me any additional taxes to pay for health care reform, but I have been paying for two wars since 2003. I'll be sure to let everyone know when that changes.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still Proudly Voting

Dante worries that a zoning issue in lower Manhattan is my sole justification for "excusing" my future vote for Obama.

However, the recent reactionism against both the proposed building and the utter misrepresentation and demonization of an entire religion is a big reason why my vote becomes more important as an "against them" action:

[T]he base of the GOP - aided and abetted by what's left of their elites - want a religious war abroad and at home not on Jihadism, but on Islam itself. And a vote for the GOP is a vote for this agenda. It is a vote for global warfare and domestic division.


This has become about much more than a 3 percentage point increase in top marginal taxes on Americans making over $250,000 a year. The mentality of these crusaders is just the most glaring example of their worldview. It is a worldview that will require far more intrusive and abrasive government than any incremental rearrangement of health care insurance.

If the Libertarians ever wanted to make a serious break from the no-longer-about-conservatism or fiscal responsibility GOP, now is the time to do it.

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Still the Teacher's Fault

I cannot think of any other industry where it is ever considered wise to get rid of 80% of your workforce every 2 years. But the number crunchers tell us that's what we need to do with teachers.

The researchers went through a simulation exercise, building on prior findings about the impact that great teachers have on their students, the fraction of incoming teachers who turn out to be strong performers in the classroom, and the "signal-to-noise" ratio in a teacher's performance during her first couple of years (i.e., how hard it is to tell whether a teacher is bad or just unlucky).


Is the teacher bad or just unlucky? Not a single mention of systemic strengths and weaknesses, not a mention of how the system handles developmentally challenged or behaviorally challenged students, not a mention of the facilities. But is a teacher bad or just unlucky made the cut.

Depending on the definition of "unlucky," I wonder if whole swaths of results were rejected because those teachers were "unlucky" enough to work for a district that has no idea what it is doing.

And despite all those variances and obstacles not of their making, at least 20% of teachers ought to be retained. I guess those folks really are making a difference, holding their respective systems and schools together through expansive work weeks and constantly going the extra mile. If the bad teachers are the reason schools fail, good teachers must be the reason schools succeed.

Not so fast, my friend:

The cumulative benefit of attending a New York City charter school is sufficiently large as to almost erase the math performance gap between low-income kids in Harlem and those in affluent suburbs by the time kids get to the eighth grade. Better teachers are surely part (but not all) of the explanation for this success.


Surely. Better teachers are a part of charter school success. They play some role not yet quantified.

But. Not. All.

So, class, let us review: when a school is failing, you need to look to the teachers, of which 80% - according to this study - are failing the students and just collecting checks and benefits. We need to look no further for the schools that fail. BUT, when a school is successfull, teachers are surely a part, but only a part of that success.

Because the folks in charge should not be held accountable for failing schools, but they should be recognized for their role in creating successful schools, especially charters.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Deeper Narrative Emerges

Oh, you mean the imam behind the Park51 Community Center in Lower Manhattan had been on trips to the Middle East on the State Department dime as part of a program to promote religious tolerance and modernization? I think I now see the machiavellian reason to whip up emotional and xenophobic furor over this imam's construction project - because without national political figures getting involved, it wouldn't be an issue.

But by making it an issue, it really plays a part of the "Obama is a secret Muslim agent from Kenya, bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia and paying for the imam who wants to bulldoze graves of American heroes to build a victory mosque in New York."

From birthers to Republican Presidential candidates in just a few easy steps. Hey, whatever keeps us from talking about the real issues, right?

Oh, and "New Rule." If anyone out there wants to claim someone is "blaming" the United States for something bad that happened to us, they must provide transcripts or it didn't happen. And by "blame," I refuse to accept legitimate rational disagreement regarding US foreign policy or airport security proceedures as such.

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Five



In New Orleans, we like to welcome the kids back to school by flooding the roads.

Crud.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Adoration of "The Chosen One"

Remember folks, liberals and Democrats and liberal Democrats in this country never, ever, ever rise to criticize the Obama administration. They all think he is "The Chosen One," and can never do anything wrong. To the left, it is not about the policies that they would like to see changed, it is about The Man himself. That side of the political sphere is delusional and they will brook no contrary opinions to be expressed.

Another offering to our American President Idol can be found here.

And yet in 2012, I will go and vote for Obama once again. Not because I agree with everything he says or does, but because - more appropriately despite - those very significant agreements, he will be standing in the way of the Republicans, who appear to be completely abandoning any reasonable kind of conservatism.

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Never Poison Your Own Food or Water

Scientists have found some of the oil that "vanished." You'll never guess where. At the same time, other scientists (the kind of scientists that certain national news organizations, government officials and infotainment-consuming Americans like to ignore) have been looking for the oil in other places. Guess what they found?

...

Failure is having to learn the same lesson over and over. One wonders how many evolutionary cousins or past empires aren't with us today because they couldn't figure out how not to shit where they ate.

The BP oil disaster story was written long before it happened, and although there was a lot of anger, there wasn't much surprise. How could there be, at this point? This country would rather focus on a local zoning issue in Manhattan than ensure the protection of its own food supply.


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Monday, August 09, 2010

Scandal Flow

I have to take a breath and read something funny about politics. Slate gives me a scandal flow chart. Awesome.

The best flow?

Scandal! Was it Sex? (Yes) With a teenage male page? (No) With another man? (No) Are you in charge of Clinton's impeachment? (No) Was she a prostitute? (Yes) Are you from Louisiana? (Yes)

= Stay. In. Congress.

Second best?

Scandal! Was it sex? (No) Was it money? (No) = Stay in Congress.

All told, three Louisianans make the chart. Though Barney Frank makes it twice.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

It Used to Be the Catholics

(As DADVocate pointed out.)

It used to be the Irish.

It has been so many groups of people in the past (and present), you start to wonder why we have to go over this lesson again and again. As someone whose family is majority Irish-Catholic, though, it behooves me to place myself in the shoes of centuries gone by. While discrimination and persecution haven't come for me because of my ethnicity or religion, I know I have only to thank the timing of my birth.

The thing that gives me the most hope after reading about how disgusting some Americans can be is that we've been through all this before.

Hell, we're still going through it now.

The process is very, very messy.

And sometimes it takes a very, very long time to get over things. Which is why it is important for those of us who believe in the freedom of religion and the promise of America to say something now.

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See Where Ground Zero Gingrich Will Lead Us

This was originally my comment on the previous post, but this really deserves as much attention as it can get. I didn't want any of you to miss it.

If you still doubt what the Cordoba Mosque is about, and what is truly at stake here, watch this.

The major "Republican" running for governor of New York says he will employ eminent domain to keep this mosque from being built. That's what he says, his own words from his own mouth. He will use the power of law to overturn the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and dare anyone to oppose him. If they take that dare, they are siding with "those who attacked us."

He will use eminent domain to curtail the freedom of religion in America. He will use eminent domain to divest Americans citizens of $100 million of property because of their religion.

He will not allow a "monument to those who attacked us" to be built. Which means he thinks all Muslims attacked us.

This is not "conservatism" as we should have it in America. We are not discussing taxes or incremental health insurance reform or the effectiveness of the bureaucracy. We are discussing restricting the rights of individuals to build a religious building on property they own where they have gone through all the accepted civic permitting proceedures, and we are having this "discussion" because some voters do not like their religion and some politicians are willing to take advantage of that fact.

This is dangerous. It is folly. And it leads us down a path as dark as any we have faced. These are the stakes.

The chorus from civil libertarians should be deafening in repudiation of this behavior, these lies and these tactics. That there is not such a chorus demonstrates only how cowardly our nation has become when defending what is right. Funny time is over. We have people in positions of power now proudly declaring that they will suspend the rights of Americans to win elections. We have people in positions of power now intentionally inciting emotional reactionism and xenophobia because it helps their bottom line.

(HT: The Daily Dish)

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Ground Zero Gingrich Gets History Wrong

I guess a degree in history of Tulane just ain't what we thought it was.

Because while we may expect Sarah Palin to whiff on important matters of Western civilizational history, we should expect an actual ivory towered historical scholar to take scholarly accepted Medieval history a bit more seriously. (And seriously, the fantastic linked post is of moderate length, but so worth the read to remind us of a singular time in Western Civilization we rarely hear about.)

So it's easy to see why a group of Muslims creating a community center in the heart of a majority Christian country in a city known for its large Jewish population might name it "The Cordoba House." They're not, as Gingrich hopes we would believe, discreetly laughing at us because "Cordoba" is some double-secret Islamist code for "conquest"; rather, they're hoping to associate themselves with a particular time in medieval history when the largest library in Western Europe was to be found in Cordoba, a city in which scholars of all three major Abrahamic religions were free to study side-by-side.


Unless he actually does know the real history, combines that with the understanding that many Americans do not know (or care to investigate) the real history, and will instead send him money and attention if he intentionally misrepresents the topic for personal political gain.

And now even Pawlenty is getting in on this nonsense.

Nothing. But. Disgust.

(HT: The Daily Dish)


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Friday, August 06, 2010

The Weakness of Your Arguments

Defined thusly:

I know! It is hard and uncomfortable to discuss the actual merits of the case. That might force people to interact with those who disagree with them or listen to facts they would rather not hear.

Instead, let's dismiss any rulings' basis on the law of the land by discussing the judge's alleged private life. It is easier to read online rumors than court transcripts, and it is easier to hear whisper campaigns than closing arguments.

Because a heterosexual judge couldn't possibly agree with that ruling, could they? There must be some hidden agenda here. Marriage is the foundation rock of our entire civilization!

We'll show them in November. I just know that the vast majority of "real" Americans agree with me because that's what the guy on the radio said. These activist judges will do anything to undermine the traditional lifestyle of everyone who agrees with everything I think.

::looks at blackberry::

Oh, excuse me, I'm late for my divorce deposition.

< / sarcasm >

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Ground Zero Gingrich Finds a Friend

Few people would like the world to go to war. Total world war, the kind with the draft and gasoline rationing and sending huge armies to other continents with conquest on the mind. The kind where something far more powerful and far more terrible than UAV's are going to be needed. The kind where internment camps are needed at home to house those who will be vilified as "other" and cast as the enemy.

Like the Fire-Eaters of old, who would stop at nothing to provoke a war between the North and the South, Newt joins Osama with his attempts to touch off a worldwide civilizational destruction.

Let me be clear: we face a national threat - from a loosely networked group of individual criminal actors who have wrapped themselves in a religion and hide amongst various states. If we expand this thing, we will do so by attacking a religion and attacking nations, and that will create for us far more enemies than we currently face.

I don't even like to think about what World War III would look like in the United States.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Elections Matter

Local elections matter more. Mayor Landrieu inherited a city $67M in the red from the previous administration, five years into a rebuilding nearly from scratch that had seen its share of disappointments.

He gave a sobering state of the city address earlier this summer, even though he'd only been in office a few months. Now, he's holding budget meetings across the city. He started in New Orleans East and continued the process last night in the Lower 9th Ward.

Read these articles. Read the complaints. The people in these neighborhoods have paid taxes like everyone else while their government has been unable or unwilling to provide responsive service. Conditions of this nature would be unacceptable almost anywhere else in America. And yet...

And yet this Mayor shows up. He brings our government officials with him. The people air their grievances, but remain respectful. Each side gets to listen and each side gets to speak. Truths are told. Real things are talked about. These meetings have a chance to produce results.

If only things like this were front page news everywhere.

Compare that with the photo-op townhalls staged by most of our national politicians. Compare that with last summer's health care meetings with people screaming and agitating and shutting down all conversation. Compare that to the pranksterism of video-slicing and compare it to the manufactured outrage over John Kerry's yacht berth. Compare these meetings in New Orleans to all the crap you watch, listen and read about in your daily "news" consumption.

I could give a shit about Obama going on "The View," or "why" he did so. I could give a shit about how he polls two years before the next election with 1,100 historically fickle Americans that opinon companies can get a hold of.

Talk to me about paved roads, property remediation and hospital construction.

The people in these neighborhoods can't get ambulances to their urban neighborhood in one of the most recognized cities on the planet. But there they are, showing up on Mondays and Thursdays, involved in redressing that grievance. And doing so with more class than all the oversimplifications and generalizations will ever give them credit for. Put that on TV and watch perceptions start to change.


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The Reflecting

Growing up, I used to think August and Everything After was one of the greatest album titles of all time.

Five years. New Orleans was a place where I visited family. Never alone, because this place is somewhere you have to show somebody, like "pictures or it didn't happen." Without a witness, who would believe you?

Five years. And almost four since I left my beach and my margaritas and a quiet life behind. Sometimes it seems like I've only been here 4 months. Sometimes it feels like I've never lived anywhere else. Time doesn't operate by the same rules here.

Five years. It isn't my story. But it is one worth reading.

Pistolette starts the tell.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Importance of Credibility

Here, let me show you.

Now, send me that seafood platter!

(Though, in all honesty, I can't imagine how many pesticides cover my vegetables and how many artificial hormones I consume with meat. So, really, why the hell not?)

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"That may happen in other countries....

...but we should never allow it to happen here."

- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defies Republican pandering to the baser reactionary fears of some Americans, by acknowledging the American values of personal and religious freedom.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Deep Breaths

Sometimes it takes a lot to remind myself that there are still some sane Republican statesmen around. They don't get the big press because they may not fire up the base and drive advertising dollars like the bombastics at the top of the ticket, though I think more folks would tune in if they had a chance to hear what was being said.

So it is a calming influence to think of US Rep. Paul Ryan and his Roadmap.

I don't have to agree with them, but it is refreshing to praise those who recognize realistic problems, and not the land-of-make-believe that most of the GOP seems to inhabit these days. Even the Daily Dish calls Ryan "A Republican Who Gives [him] Hope"

From the Post link:

Ryan said he does not think that voters would punish the GOP for shunning attack politics and for speaking plainly about the country's problems. He notes his own political success: He won reelection in 2008 with 62 percent of the vote despite coming from a district and a state that voted for Obama.

"It's really important, I think, not to run campaigns on some vague platitudes and rip down the other party, to hopefully win an election by default," he said. "You have to win an election by acclamation, by aspiration, by telling people who you are and what you are going to do, and then go do it once you get there."


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Ground Zero Gingrich (continued)

No, I won't be done talking about this for a long, long time. The fact that we are even having this discussion reminds me how overpoliticized things have become in this country. On most issues, I can be objective and rational. This one gets me so spitting mad, it takes twice as long to write about it from all the typos and curse words I want to inject.

A zoning issue in New York City should not be a flash point for us to throw our own American foundations under the bus.

But now with Gingrich, Palin and Giuliani fanning the flames of sectarian religious bigotry in America, as a de facto platform of one of our major political parties, I am not sure how long I can maintain a rational perspective.

That there is not widespread repudiation for their words and deeds is mounting evidence that this nation has adopted progress-resistant attributes from which we may never recover. The silence is deafening. That these disgusting public figures are engaged in this inflammatory behavior in the interest of only money, attention and political gain - and that they are able to do so successfully - calls into question all of the benefits of the doubt I have extended to my own American culture and civilization.

Let me repeat something for those of you who may have forgotten a few things along the way:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


That text can be found in a rather important document that provides the basis for the civil liberties we enjoy in this nation.

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Eating Cake

Neither a "Democratic" problem nor a "Republican" problem. The CEO of a public company spending what should be public money on private affairs? That's a local problem.

The President cannot help you here. Neither your Senators nor Congressmen will be involved. But your City Council, Mayor and Inspector General can do something about it.

There is a reason our roads are terrible, our schools are falling apart and we can't get a handle on crime. We live in a system more closely resembling feudalism, where we, the peasants, provide money and services so the Lords and Ladies of the Realm may get the full enjoyment out of their high-paying jobs. They are protected from scrutiny by thier knights and pages, who swear fealty to and serve at the pleasure of their leige.

And in the enduring repeat of history, it never seemed to occur to this particular Lord of the Realm that he was doing anything wrong. He probably thinks the rest of us eat cake.

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As History Is Written

I wonder what they're going to say about all this in 50 to 100 years?

Maitri reminds us that, contrary to popular misconception, 205.8 million gallons of oil does not "vanish." She also includes the link to a very brief explanation of "static kill" and "bottom kill."

Second, even as President Obama declares that major combat operations are over in Iraq, he neglects to mention this is the second time this announcement has been made. Of course, we'll still leave 50,000 troops there. Of course, right-wing voices on the radio this morning again called this "cutting and running," but at what point do we admit that our strategies have failed, and our society has lost the will to fight these wars in these ways?

Because make no mistake, we've been at war with Iraq since 1991, incurring all the human and material costs so related.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Where's Wald-Oil?

The rest of America must really be getting tired of this whole "oil destroying the Gulf Coast" thing, because that's the only reason I can think of to explain all the national media types that have bought into the where's the oil theory of fantasy-land.

I guess Brit Hume just got the oil-industry memo early.

So where is the oil? American Zombie got on a plane, went out over the oil spill and took pictures He took a lot of pictures of a lot of stuff that appears to be oil and dispersant.

The biggest story is that the oil is likely sinking out of sight - one of the reasons the national purveyors of the "vanishing" oil myth seem to have an ounce of reality left in their heads. The smaller story is the number of commentators on his posts that adhere rigidly to the alternate-universe theory that, where there was once an oil spill, what AZ's pictures show are just normal occurances. They seem to think the oil is actually vanishing, as if by magic.

Just because you can't see all of it on the top of the water doesn't mean it isn't there. I wonder if certain members of the press believe parts of their own bodies disappear when they go swimming?

The Levee has a different theory.

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Ethics 101

Jay Bookman rightly points out that the investigations of Reps. Rangel and Waters by the House Ethics Committee demonstrate considerable progress in cleaning up Congress. And not only is the Ethics Committee working this, but the Democratic leadership looks to be taking a hard line.

However, the best way to gauge the current state of congressional ethics is not the behavior of individual members, but whether their colleagues are willing to tolerate that misbehavior. The Rangel and Waters cases offer evidence of a system that is working and of a House that is far more willing than in the past to police its own.


This is very important, especially considering the Hastert-DeLay-Republican behavior in the past. At the very least, to play politics with this thing would require Democratic foot-dragging until after November's election.

Instead, the Ethics Committee forged on with their investigations while the Democratic leadership made moves that were politically risky, against two powerful congressional office-holders with serious clout; office holders who raise considerable money for the reelection of their more electorally vulnerable Party members.

And yet, the word from right-wing radio, broadcast and internet is that these very investigations serve as proof that Peloi lets this Congress get away with just as much as Hastert & DeLay did.

Maybe that's why the last GOP congresses were so bad. If no one sees the ethical violations, they didn't happen!

Maybe one of our problems in this country is that too many people don't understand that enforcing the rules requires process and investigation, not over-politicization and knee-jerk reaction. Especially if you're going after some of the most well-entrenched, highest-profile folks.

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