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Archive for "Politics"

November 21, 2016

Dear Diary

I’m scared. That’s what it is, I guess. I’m just damn scared.

I’m disappointed, sure. I’m disappointed that almost half of the voting public doesn’t place a high value on decency. I’m disappointed that a significant portion of that near-half seems to have been suckered in by innuendoes and flat-out lies, sharing and re-sharing a narrative that can be disproven with the slightest research and/or the slightest critical thinking skills. I’m disappointed that anyone trusted a man who has given us exactly zero reason to trust anything except the fact that he is entirely unworthy of trust.

And I’m angry. Oh so very much yes, am I angry. I’m angry at the half of the voting-age adults who stayed home rather than participate in the future of our country. I’m angry at the subhuman mouth-breathers who took the result of this election as license to trot their racism out into the open. I’m angry at the cozy suburban enablers who are downplaying that behavior—or worse, defending it. I’m angry at the protesters who are letting themselves get violent, who are making us all look bad.

And I’m sad. I’m sad for the credulous voters who believed anything this vile man said; I’m sad that their hopes are already being squashed. I’m sad that it appears we were more right than we knew, those of us who predicted that he would disappoint his supporters early and often. I’m sad that this bumbling conman appears to be “draining the swamp” right into his own gaping, feculent maw.

But mostly, I’m scared. I’m scared for every single one of my non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual friends, family, and colleagues. I’m scared for my Asian, immigrant daughter, and what she might have to face in the coming years if these trends continue. I’m scared by the possibility of a return to the roaring, Red-hunting ’50s, when government nurtured suspicion of one’s neighbor. (Was this when America was “great”?) I’m scared that internment camps are being touted as “precedent” for elements of the incoming administration’s policy platform. (How about then?) I’m scared that a petulant man-child will have control of America’s nukes, its military, its intelligence apparatus. I’m scared by the many, many parallels between that small, mewling man and the worst leaders of history.

But you know what? I’m hopeful, too. I’m hopeful that this election has been a wakeup call to the complacent, to the political abstainers, to the press. I’m hopeful that at least some few in the Congressional majority will take a stand for what’s right rather than only what’s right-wing. I’m hopeful because a greater number of those who did vote actually voted against the race-baiting demagogue—a number that seems to be growing every day. I’m hopeful because the racist fuckheads aren’t the only ones who’ve been mobilized and emboldened by this election.

So yeah, I’m scared. I’m disappointed, angry, and sad. But I’m also hopeful. And that’s no small thing.

November 20, 2016

Purple Nation, Revisited

If you follow any conservatives on social media (and if you’re a liberal you really, really should) you may have come across one of the current talking points relating to the ongoing discussion about the Electoral College: maps. Such blazing red maps! Like this one:


I saw that on Facebook, linking to an article called “What Elections Would Look Like WITHOUT Electoral College” [sic], from a site called The Federalist Papers Project. Oddly—one might even say suspiciously—that article doesn’t actually include that map, though it does include this one:


That’s a map of population density; the most populated counties are in blue. “Now, if the Electoral College did not exist, what would happen to the grey counties?” the author asks. “They would be forgotten, they would not matter. Only the most heavily populated areas would be courted for votes.”

The implication, of course, is that the Electoral College is in place to protect the gray/red counties (read: Real Americans) from the decisions made by those in the blue counties (read: Kale-Munching Freedom-Haters). And there’s really only one problem with this idea:

It’s complete, unadulterated, one-hundred-percent-free-range horseshit.

Continue reading “Purple Nation, Revisited” »

November 17, 2011

Evolution: A Dialogue

I love my family.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m the youngest of ten siblings. I have nineteen nieces and nephews, two grand-nephews, and a brand new grand-niece. That being the case, it probably doesn’t surprise you much that we have dramatically different ideals, faiths, and political beliefs. We pretty much cover a large swathe of the spectrum of ideology: we have liberals, conservatives, and libertarians; Democrats and Republicans; Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics — and some of those don’t match up the way you’d expect. Anyway: big group, lots of diversity. No surprise there.

What is surprising is the fact that, on the whole, we all maintain civility and respect for one another. Sure, we’ve pretty much learned that there are times that certain topics must be avoided, but we’ve also learned how to interact when those topics do come up in a gratifyingly adult manner…and to extend love and respect in spite of our disagreements. 

So I was very pleased when my oldest sister, Caroline, responded via e-mail to my previous post. She’s a Christian who holds very different beliefs from mine, and also a very smart lady, so we ended up getting deep into discussion about the validity of evolution and the interplay of science and religion. And though we ended up agreeing to disagree—as so often must be the case—I enjoyed the conversation so much that I asked her permission to share it with you.

So here it is, unedited. Let it never be said that adults cannot disagree civilly about fundamental matters.

Dear Joseph,

I read your blog post this morning, and though I don’t expect to change your mind about anything, I do feel I need to respond.

Continue reading “Evolution: A Dialogue” »

November 7, 2011

Dear Republican candidates: This is why we don’t take you seriously

The recent news about a former climate-change denier changing his tune — in a study funded by fossil-fuel interests, no less — got me thinking. Well, that and the seemingly endless series of Republican debates. In watching coverage of the debates, something kept nibbling at the back of my mind, something I couldn’t put my finger on. But I finally figured it out.

In talking about global warming and evolution (and in some cases, both at once!) the Republican candidates tend to fall back on some variant of this phrase:

“It’s just a theory.”

Evolution? Just a theory. Global warming? Just a theory.

Let me back up for a second and lay out some disclosure: I believe that — no, wait a minute; strike “believe.” Evolution is real. We know evolution is real because we see it in action. Ever hear of MRSA? Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus has become a serious problem in hospitals and nursing homes over the past few years. S. aureus is a bacteria that usually lives pretty harmlessly on the human skin. Occasionally, though, it can flare up into relatively serious infections. Historically, these infections have been pretty easily treated with penicillin or other antibiotics. Then came MRSA. This nasty little critter dodges most of what we would normally throw at it, forcing doctors to bring out the big guns. Where did it come from?

Evolution. Wide use of traditional antibiotics killed off, by definition, only those strains of staph susceptible to traditional antibiotics. What was left were the ones that had mutated in such a way that traditional antibiotics didn’t wipe them out. New drugs, hardier bugs. Survival of the fittest. Sound familiar?

(As an aside: I happen to agree with Newt Gingrich that recognizing the truth of evolution doesn’t mean you can’t also believe in a divine Creator. Unless you take the Bible as word-for-word accurate, and believe that the world was created in six twenty-four-hour days — in which case, I’d like to ask you some questions about Genesis 1:27 vis-a-vis Genesis 2:22, among others — there’s nothing in evolution that precludes the idea of a Creator guiding the mutations that result in evolution. In fact, I tend to find that idea more elegant.)

So, that’s evolution. Global warming? I’ll say I’m not nearly as up on the science here, but I’m willing to take the word of ninety-seven percent of the people whose job it is to know about this stuff. Because the alternative is a laughable global conspiracy with basically no upside for the alleged conspirators. (But you know what? Even if global warming is a complete fabrication, what the hell is wrong with working to reduce waste? That’s the fundamental goal of proponents of global warming, you know: to reduce waste. Fossil fuels are absurdly inefficient, and thus expensive far out of proportion to the benefits they provide. If we can come up with more efficient, less wasteful, less expensive ways of doing things, why wouldn’t we? I don’t know about you, but my parents taught me that waste was bad. But anyway.)

My point of these disclosures is that I recognize that having these views dismissed predisposes me to not take the dismisser seriously. But you know, it’s a big world, it’s a free country, you can feel free to believe what you want to believe, you know?

The problem is when you try to support your beliefs by saying these things are “just theories.” And that’s the point I want to make here. (I know, it took me long enough.) When you say that global warming or evolution is “just a theory,” you’re either displaying 1.) a dismaying level of ignorance about the way science works, or 2.) a cynical willingness to pretend to such ignorance if you think it makes you more electable.

Here’s why I say that: “Theory” in common parlance and “theory” in the context of science are two very different things. Anyone who took a single high school-level science class ought to know this. Outside of science, we use the word “theory” to indicate an untested idea. It’s the start of the process. If you say “I’ve got a theory: It could be bunnies,”  you’re essentially announcing your intention to explore the idea that bunnies could be at the root of your problems.

But in science, that’s called a hypothesis. A theory is what happens when a hypothesis has been rigorously explored. In other words, a hypothesis becomes a theory only after evidence has been gathered.

Now, this isn’t the end of the process by any means. Scientists are always re-evaluating theories to ensure they still hold up. That’s the great thing about science: You have all these really freakin’ smart people constantly checking to make sure everything works the way we think it does, so we don’t have to. And yes, sometimes new evidence arises that disproves a theory, even a long-held one. But that doesn’t change the fact that theories are based on evidence, not just wild speculation.

So dismissing a scientific theory — especially one as well-tested as evolution — as  “just a theory” is simply absurd. It’s like saying Earth is “just a planet.” The Grand Canyon is “just a big hole.” America is “just a country.” (U-S-A! U-S-A!) What I’m saying is that it makes you look ignorant. And then we all laugh at you. Because we’re mean.

If you want to fall back on scientific skepticism, we call all discuss things rationally, like adults. Point out holes in theories and sic the scientists on each other. I have no problem with that. There are plenty of things that well-meaning adults disagree on, and there’s just so much we don’t know. But if you try to pretend that you know more than science does — but use words to do so that betray a fundamental misunderstanding about one of the basic precepts of science — well, it makes it hard for folks who know better to take you seriously. You might as well debate the existence of gravity.

You do believe in gravity, right?

April 12, 2011


[I have no idea where this came from, and I don’t really know what it is. A poem? The skeleton of a song? Not really sure. But I thought I’d share it anyway.]

Sponge the dryness from these lips.
Sour disinfectant burns
the rips and cracks and tears,
the gnawing fears,
the hollow absolutions.

For they do know what they do,
and no pious platitude
can save the unrepentant thief,
or shake belief in unbelief.

See: the needle-dicks of rich men
prick the temple-cloth
of civilization,
and rend us all.
Three hours of night?
A day? A year? A century?

(Their camels balk
and sweat holier waters.)

And history repeats
raised from the dead
to shamble down fear-shrouded streets
in deathless search of spongy treats.

Who bears a spear with edge enough
to pierce those bullshit-swollen guts
and spill that reeking discharge?

(We will know the unfit candidates:
they’ll be the ones raising their hands.)

Behold the science of our time,
a secular faith whose communion wine
is spiked with Rohypnol:
Its apostles spread the call
to put faith only in one creed:


February 5, 2009

What’s Amusing Me Today

  • All the staunch Republicans ridiculing or otherwise attacking Obama for not implementing enough “Change” — or not implementing it quickly enough. Um, think about that one for a second. If it still doesn’t strike you as funny, ask yourself: change from what?
  • How comfortable the talking heads on Fox News seem to be with expressing hope that our new president actively hurts the country.
  • That anyone is still taking Rush Limbaugh seriously.

How about you?

January 23, 2009

Things I Never Thought I’d Say, #1

“Hey, this blog post from the White House crashed my RSS reader!”

January 21, 2009

Hello New Day


“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.  On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.  We remain a young nation.  But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

Yes. And,

“…we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Yes. Begone, you foul children. Begone, you petty scoffers, you small-minded squinters, take away your grasping claws and sour wheezing laughter. We are a better people than what we have been.

We are better than you.

Goodbye, you back-door dealers, you double-talkers, you new-speakers. May you live long, long lives of peace and health. May your minds stay sharp to the ends of your days, so that you may hear what is said, read what is written, learn what is taught about you.

So sorry you can’t stick around, but the grownups have important things to discuss, and it’s long past your bedtime.

Continue reading “Hello New Day” »

November 5, 2008

Purple Nation

Ladies and gentlemen, can we please put the fucking ridiculous red-state-versus-blue-state bullshit to rest now? No group can be characterized by the sort of sweeping terms used in politics lately, least of all a completely arbitrary group based on geography (as California progressives have learned to their dismay with the passing of Prop 8). Tuesday’s election was significant for lots of reasons, but one of my biggest reliefs was to see President-elect Obama winning states that have traditionally been thought of as Republican strongholds. What better evidence do we need that people don’t slot neatly into political categories?

The traditional electoral results maps look like this (or, at least, are likely to once NC and MO are finally called):

But when you look at it county-by-county, using a continuum of red to blue to reflect the proportions of votes for each candidate, it’s a very different picture:

Continue reading “Purple Nation” »

November 4, 2008

It Begins!

Well, some polls are now officially closed. We are at the beginning of the end of a long-awaited day. I’m nervous and excited, happy to be part of the great process of democracy, and eager to see this seemingly endless campaign season over.

I figured now might be a good time to put out a few suggestions for the days ahead:

1. To those of you whose favorite candidate wins, be gracious to those who supported The Other Guy. No matter who wins, lots of people are going to be disappointed. No need to make them feel any worse by rubbing it in. (This goes double for those of you who, like me, support Obama: Practice the unity that you preach. Walk the walk. If this election is, like Senator Obama says, about ending “politics as usual,” then let’s make sure we help with that.)

Continue reading “It Begins!” »