Friday, July 11, 2014

Political Discourse and a Big Shovel

So I was reading an old issue of Time magazine. I had just finished yet another article about scandals involving lobbyists who take money from one group and funnel it to politicians (keeping a nice chunk for themselves, of course) all in the name of making the lobbyists rich. I began reading one of the featured articles on Abraham Lincoln. I was immediately struck by something that Doris Kearns Goodwin pointed out.

It seems that Abe had no problem appointing people to his cabinet who disagreed with him. Actually seemed to relish the thought. He apparently also had no problem with the following phrases:

1. I'm sorry.
2. I was wrong/mistaken.
3. Thank you.

Whaddaya know about that? Compare this to modern politics:

1. I'm sorry. Only uttered when the polls indicate that this is the politically expedient course of action. Otherwise it's an admission of error, which is a sign of weakness, which means that someone like Karl Rove (who once appeared in an episode of "American Dad" in his true guise as the Angel of Death) is free to perform whatever hatchet job is necessary upon the person issuing the apology, rendering him or her politically sterile for the next 3,000 years.

2. I was wrong/mistaken. This has been replaced with a "blame the rest of the world" approach; basically this means taking the position that I was NOT wrong, I was as correct as I could be given the facts at my disposal, which were flawed, and anyway who's to say I wasn't right after all once the correct information came to light, and you can't prove anything and I never said that to begin with, and even if I did it wasn't under oath, and I was speaking metaphorically, and after all the question wasn't framed correctly, and in the final analysis can anybody really say that have a true understanding of what reality IS anyway?

3. Thank you. This is actually used quite frequently, but is usually costs the recipient at least $5,000 a plate.

So I'm proposing that this midterm election people actually take notice. Don't pay attention to the frantic screeching from the religious right about whatever pet issue they decide to glom onto for this election cycle. Dismiss without prejudice the bleatings about how safe fracking is, and if your water catches fire you should just consider it to be a free source of heat. Ignore all the breast beating rhetoric about how someone's opponent was caught in a cheap motel with a Batman Halloween mask, a pair of barbecue tongs and an underage gorilla.

Instead, focus on things of actual import to the future health and well-being of the United States and her citizens. Things like:

The right of women to make their own birth control decisions.
The Hobby Lobby decision and its aftermath has made it pretty clear where conservatives stand. First they said corporations are people, and could therefore make donations to political campaigns, and that any limitation on these donations was an infringement of the First Amendment rights of the corporation. Then they said that corporations, being people and all, have a First Amendment right to practice their religious beliefs, and that anything that causes them to run counter to those beliefs -- let's say, oh, I don't know, providing health insurance with a contraceptive plan to women -- is unconstitutional, but only in the cases where the contraceptive is an abortifacient. This was followed almost immediately by a directive to the lower courts that hey, we were only kidding, we actually mean all contraceptives, and now you have to rehear all of those cases.

The latest development is that the Supreme Court is citing this bizarre religious butterfly effect, where if a corporation has to fill out a form that allows the insurance company to provide contraceptive care to women, this means they are implicitly condoning the use of contraceptives, which, as was pointed out before, violates the First Amendment rights of the corporation.

I suppose that, in the next go-round, the Supreme Court will hold that any company that makes pens that the officers of a corporation use to sign the form to allow insurance companies to be reimbursed by the government for providing contraceptive care outside of the health plan offered by the corporation will be exempt as well, because this will violate THAT corporation's freedom of religious expression.

The right to not get shot in the face while shopping.
So the gun nuts have staged "peaceful demonstrations" at Chipotle and Target. These peaceful demonstrations consisted of a bunch of people walking into a place of business, armed to the teeth, and wondering why the hell everyone was so nervous all of a sudden. It got to the point that the following press release was sent out:
From San Angelo Live, San Angelo, TX, 4/25/2014: "Saturday, April 26, The Tom Green County Chapter of the Open Carry Texas Organization will be participating in an event in San Angelo so as to inform the public about the Open Carry Law in the State of Texas. The San Angelo Police Department is well aware of the event and would like the citizens of San Angelo to know that this is a peaceful demonstration and that there is no need to be alarmed." (emphasis added)
Okay, a general rule of thumb is, if you are staging a demonstration, and the friggin' police department has to warn the population that you are not going to kill them, then you're doing it wrong.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Texas, a man shoots and kills his ex-sister-in-law and her entire family (save for one survivor). Sadly, this is no longer viewed as something out of the ordinary. The NRA hasn't weighed in on this one yet, and if they have the same amount of common sense as a bag of gravel, they won't.

The right to earn a living wage.
The far right has gotten their bloomers in a bunch again, this time over the minimum wage. Apparently, if you work a full time job and still are below the poverty line, then it's your own damned fault for not being born wealthy in the first place.

Originally, if I'm not mistaken, the minimum wage was intended to be a floor from which people could spring upward, and a way to guarantee that anyone who wanted to work would be able to support themselves. The problem is that, thanks to various ideological and political conditions in both of the major parties over the past seven decades or so when it was first enacted, it has never really lived up to that promise.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour. If you work full time, 40 hours a week, and you take no time off at all (or get paid time off and holi-- I'm sorry, I couldn't finish that sentence with a straight face), you will have an annual income of $15,080 before taxes. The poverty line for a single adult in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia is $11,670 (Alaska and Hawaii are handled separately, presumably because of their remoteness from the rest of the country).

So far, so good. Comparatively speaking, anyway. It's not great, but it should be enough to get by. In some places. Provided you live somewhere you can actually afford that's close to enough to where you work that you can either walk or take public transportation. So this pretty much rules out everywhere except Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Now let's say this single adult has a baby but the father goes AWOL. She's now a single mother, supporting both herself and the screaming poop factory on this crappy $7.25 an hour. However, just by virtue of procreating, the poverty line has moved above her income, to $15,730 a year.

Now, conservatives would point out that maybe she shouldn't have had the kid in the first place. And maintaining that the child was unintended, and they should be glad the mother didn't choose an abortion, and maybe if they hadn't stuck their big honkers in and made it so freakin' difficult for women to get birth control covered under their insurance, she wouldn't be in this position, is completely lost on them. Now, according to right wing wisdom (which is, in and of itself, an oxymoron), she is one of the "takers" and deserves to be degraded, belittled, and humiliated at every turn for daring to suckle off the generous government teat.


The point of all this is this: there's a midterm election in a few months, and it's time people stopped being so goddam lazy and just pushing the button next to the name they've heard of before, or that has a "D" or an "R" (depending on your affiliation) next to it, or just not voting at all.

729 out of every 730 days, you have absolutely no say in what happens in Congress. However, there's one day every two years during which members of Congress live in fear ... of you. They have pollsters, political scientists, lobbyists, get-out-the-vote organizations, armies of volunteers, millions of dollars to spend on TV, radio, and internet advertising ... but, no matter how hard they try, they cannot absolutely, with 100% certainty, predict the what you will do.

This year the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans are going to keep the House of Representatives, possibly gaining even more of a majority, and that the Democrats have a less than 50% chance of retaining the majority in the Senate. You think things are bad now? Just wait until you have both houses of Congress dominated by these right-wing assholes. You will see legislation placing further restrictions on a woman's right to choose, providing even bigger breaks for the 1% ... in short, you're gonna be screwed over even worse than you already are.

I say we teach these jokers a lesson they won't soon forget. Vote liberal. The more liberal, the better. If you can find a Wiccan running for Congress, or a gay polygamist Muslim, or even (but this might be a stretch) a true progressive, then vote for them.

And, to everyone in Kentucky, will you please vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes for Senate, and get ol' Turkey Neck outta there? That guy is really pissing me off. I gotta lie down.


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