Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Republican Dictionary ('04)

Link: The Republican Dictionary

by Katrina Vanden Huevel
The Nation, Nov. 2004

[excerpted; full text at the link above]

BI-PARTISANSHIP – When conservative Republicans work together with moderate Republicans to pass legislation Democrats hate.

CLARIFY – Repeating the same lie over and over again.

FAIRER – Regressive.

FAITH – The stubborn belief that God approves of Republican moral values despite the preponderance of textual evidence to the contrary.

HONESTY – Lies told in simple declarative sentences: "Freedom is on the march."

MORAL VALUES – Hatred of homosexuals dressed up in Biblical language.

MANDATE – What a Republican claims to possess when only 49 percent of the voting public loathes him instead of 51 percent.

THE MEDIA – Immoral elitist liberally-biased traitors who should leave Republicans alone so they can complete God's work on Earth in peace and quiet, behind closed doors.

PHILOSOPHY – Religion.

SIMPLIFY – To cut the taxes of Republican donors.

Believing in Miracles ('04)

Link: "Believing in Miracles"

by Hal Crowther
Dec. 2004

[excerpted; full text at the link above]

...The United States of America, technologically advanced, technically literate and nominally civilized, now stands in the dock of world opinion with little choice but to plead guilty to pernicious, pandemic, pre-Enlightenment, near-medieval gullibility....

The great abyss of difference that now yawns between Europe and America is the average American's eagerness to believe damn near anything....

Creationism, the kind of thing that leaves Europeans speechless, is the pièce de résistance of imbecile fundamentalist rubbish. When the Darwin-bashers crawl out and try to flex their muscle, bookburners and witchburners are never far behind....

The United States was founded by post-Enlightenment intellectuals, many of them agnostic, who pursued the science of liberty with the support of austere Anglicans, Congregationalists and Quakers. If you could poll the shades of the Founding Fathers, you'd be hard pressed to find one who believed in the Virgin Birth. What they all believed in passionately, and believed to be the cornerstone of democracy, was the strictest separation of church and state.

"What have been its fruits?" asked James Madison of state-supported Christianity. "More or less in most places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."


In the USA ... the Dark Ages seem to loom ahead of us. What nation's intellectual history ever ran in reverse? ...


[emphasis added]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jesus and Alinsky ('04)

Link: "Jesus and Alinsky"
by Walter Wink

[Excerpted; Full text at the link above.]

...There are three general responses to evil: (1) violent opposition, (2) passivity, and (3) the third way of militant nonviolence articulated by Jesus....

[nice explanation / re-interpretation of "if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" omitted here...]

Jesus' Third Way

  • Seize the moral initiative.
  • Find a creative alternative to violence.
  • Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person.
  • Meet force with ridicule or humor.
  • Break the cycle of humiliation.
  • Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position.
  • Expose the injustice of the system.
  • Take control of the power dynamic.
  • Shame the oppressor into repentance.
  • Stand your ground.
  • Force the Powers into decisions for which they are not prepared.
  • Recognize your own power.
  • Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate.
  • Force the oppressor to see you in a new light.
  • Deprive the oppressor of a situation where force is effective.
  • Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws.

... Maybe it would help to juxtapose Jesus' teachings with legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky's principles for nonviolent community action (in his Rules for Radicals) to gain a clearer sense of their practicality and pertinence to the struggles of our time. Among rules Alinsky developed in his attempts to organize American workers and minority communities are these:

  • Power is not only what you have but what your enemy thinks you have.
  • Never go outside the experience of your people.
  • Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy.
  • Make your enemies live up to their own book of rules.
  • Ridicule is your most potent weapon.
  • A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
  • A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
  • Keep the pressure on.
  • The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
  • The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure on the opposition.
  • If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through to its counterside.
  • The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
  • Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.

... To Alinsky's list I would like to add another "rule" of my own: never adopt a strategy you would not want your opponents to use against you.

[This piece is reprinted from The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, edited by Paul Loeb]

How to Respond to Conservatives ('04)

Link: How To Respond To Conservatives
by George Lakoff

[edited; full text at the link above]

[I'm not very good at this. I get too angry. And I believe the facts should convince any rational person.]


1. Show respect
2. Respond by reframing
3. Think and talk at the level of values
4. Say what you believe

Now the details:

Progressive values are the best of traditional American values. Stand up for your values with dignity and strength. You are a true patriot because of your values.

  • Show respect to the conservatives you are responding to. No one will listen to you if you don't accord them respect.

  • Listen to them. You may disagree strongly with everything that is being said, but you should know what is being said. Be sincere. Avoid cheap shots.

  • What if they don't show you respect? Two wrongs don't make a right. Turn the other cheek and show respect anyway. That takes character and dignity. Show character and dignity.

  • Avoid a shouting match. Remember that the radical right requires a culture war, and shouting is the discourse form of that culture war. You gain a victory when the discourse turns civil. They win when they get you to shout.

    What if you have moral outrage? You should have moral outrage. But you can display it with controlled passion. If you lose control, they win.

  • Distinguish between ordinary conservatives and nasty ideologues. Most conservatives are personally nice people, and you want to bring out their niceness and their sense of neighborliness and hospitality.

  • Be calm. Calmness is a sign that you know what you are talking about.

  • Be good-humored. A good-natured sense of humor shows you are comfortable with yourself.

  • Hold your ground. Always be on the offense. Never go on defense. Never whine or complain. Never act like a victim. Never plead. Avoid the language of weakness, for example, rising intonations on statements. Your voice should be steady. Your body and voice should show optimism. You should convey passionate conviction without losing control.

  • Conservatives have parodied liberals as weak, angry (hence not in control of their emotions), weak-minded, softhearted, unpatriotic, uninformed, and elitist. Don't give them any opportunities to stereotype you in any of these ways. Expect these stereotypes, and deal with them when they come up.

    By the way you conduct yourself, show strength, calmness, and control; an ability to reason; a sense of realism; love of country; a command of the basic facts; and a sense of being an equal, not a superior. At the very least you want your audience to think of you with respect, as someone they may disagree with but who they have to take seriously. In many situations this is the best you can hope for. You have to recognize those situations and realize that a draw with dignity is a victory in the game of being taken seriously.

  • Don't expect to convert staunch conservatives.

  • Avoid the usual mistakes. Remember, don't just negate the other person's claims; reframe. The facts unframed will not set you free. You cannot win just be stating the true facts and showing that they contradict your opponent's claims. Frames trump facts. His frames will stay and the facts will bounce off. Always reframe.

  • Once your frame is accepted into the discourse, everything you say is just common sense. Why? Because that's what common sense is: reasoning within a commonplace, accepted frame.

  • Never answer a question framed from your opponent's point of view. Always reframe the question to fit your values and your frames. This may make you uncomfortable, since normal discourse styles require you to directly answer questions posed. That is trap. Practice changing frames.

  • Be sincere. Use frames you really believe in, based on values you really hold.

  • Tell a story. Build up a stock of effective stories.

  • Always start with values, preferably values all Americans share like security, prosperity, opportunity, freedom, and so on. Try to win the argument at the values level.

  • Remember that our goal is to unite our country behind our values, the best of traditional American values. Right-wing ideologues need to divide our country via a nasty cultural civil war. They need discord and shouting and name-calling and put-downs. We win with civil discourse and respectful cooperative conversation.


Examples

  • If they are nurturant at home but strict in business, talk about the home and family and how they relate to political issues:

    Real family values mean that your parents, as they age, don't have to sell their home or mortgage their future to pay for health care or the medications they need.

  • Use rhetorical questions: Wouldn't it be better if…? Such a question should be chosen to presuppose your frame:

    Wouldn't it be better if we had a president who went to war with a plan to secure the peace?

  • Suppose someone argues against a form of universal health care. If people don't have health care, he argues, it's their own fault. They're not working hard enough or not managing their money properly. We shouldn't have to pay for their lack of initiative or their financial mismanagement.

    Most of the forty million people who can't afford health care work full-time at essential jobs that cannot pay enough to get them health care. Yet these working people support the lifestyles of the top three-quarters of our population. Some forty million people have to do those hard jobs—or you don't have your lifestyle. America promises a decent standard of living in return for hard work. These workers have earned their health care by doing essential jobs to support the economy. There is money in the economy to pay them. Tax credits are the easiest mechanism. Their health care would be covered by having the top two percent pay the same taxes they used to pay. It's only fair that the wealthy pay for their own lifestyles, and that people who provide those lifestyles get paid fairly for it.

  • Your opponent says, “We should get rid of taxes. People know how to spend their money better than the government.”

    “The government has made very wise investments with taxpayer money. Our interstate highway system, for example. You couldnʼt build a highway with your tax refund. The government built them. Or the Internet, paid for by taxpayer investment. You could not make your own Internet. Most of our scientific advances have been made through funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health—great government investments of taxpayer money. No matter how wisely you spent your own money, youʼd never get those scientific and medical breakthroughs. And how far would you get hiring your own army with your tax refund?”

  • Use wedge issues, cases where your opponent will violate some belief he holds no matter what he says. Suppose he brings up abortion:

    Raise the issue of military rape treatment. Women soldiers who are raped (by our own soldiers, in Iraq, or on military bases) and who subsequently get pregnant presently cannot end their pregnancies in a military hospital, because abortions are not permitted there. A Military Rape Treatment Act would allow our raped women soldiers to be treated in military hospitals to end their rape-induced pregnancies.

    If he agrees, he sanctions abortion, in government-supported facilities no less, where doctors would have to be trained and facilities provided for terminating pregnancies. If he disagrees, he dishonors our women soldiers who are putting their lives on the line for him. To the women it is like being raped twice—once by a criminal soldier and once by a self-righteous conservative.

  • Suppose he starts touting smaller government:

    Point out that conservatives donʼt really want smaller government. They donʼt want to eliminate the military, or the FBI, or the Treasury and Commerce Departments, or the nine-tenths of the courts that support corporate law. It is big government that they like. What they really want to do away with is social programs—programs that invest in people, to help people to help themselves. Such a position contradicts the values the country was founded on—the idea of a community where people pull together to help each other. From John Winthrop on, that is what our nation has stood for.

  • Your opponent may use language that means the opposite of what he says, called Orwellian language. Realize that he is weak on this issue. Use language that accurately describes what heʼs talking about to frame the discussion your way. Suppose he cites the “Healthy Forests Initiative” as a balanced approach to the environment:

    Point out that it should be called “No Tree Left Behind” because it permits and promotes clear-cutting, which is destructive to forests and other living things in the forest habitat. Use the name to point out that the public likes forests, doesnʼt want them clear-cut, and that the use of the phony name shows weakness on the issue. Most people want to preserve the grandeur of America, not destroy it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dubya's supporters ('04)

Link: "The Homecoming"
by Hal Crowther
Oct. '04

[excerpted; full text at the above link]

... If ever there was a deal-breaker, a faith-breaker between a president and the people who elected him ..., it's this bloody-minded travesty of a war that Bush concocted out of far-right obsessions and cooked intelligence, lied flagrantly to legitimize and then pursued to such a tragic, pitiful cul-de-sac. Such poor judgment yoked to such abysmal incompetence is unprecedented in all presidential history known to me....

I disagree with Bush on virtually every issue; most of his supporters support him for reasons I find incomprehensible or abhorrent. In four short years his administration has poisoned or criminally neglected our economy, our environment, our international reputation and our tradition of human rights and civil liberties. Even science has come under fierce attack by a right-wing coalition of corporate thugs and fundamentalist illiterates....

The great mystery is, who are The Others--the 45 percent or more who manage to believe in this man and his war?...

When you add up neocon imperialists, assault-gun psychos, shallow-closet segregationists, fat-wallet whores who coddle fascists for the sake of deeper tax cuts, fundamentalists for whom pro-choice is pro-Satan, Darwin is Mephistopheles and the Book of Revelation is the literal word of God -- this loose federation of unsavory cults and cliques that make up the modern Republican Party -- you know they don't add up to anything close to an electoral majority....

Where, then, are the rest of the true believers, the Bush bedrock...?

"People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about," writes [Thomas] Frank [in What's the Matter With Kansas]... He describes "a panorama of madness and delusion ... of sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of working-class guys delivering up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life and transform their region into a 'rustbelt.'" ...

It's here in the empty country that the great Republican gullibility holds sway. People surrender their soldier-children, their votes, their meager taxes without a murmur, then call in to right-wing radio hosts to rage about abortionists and same-sex marriage. Where hope is hard to find, people turn to more accessible emotions, like anger and fear.

It takes enemies to give them purpose in the world, and if Osama bin Laden is out of range they're happy to substitute you and me--the too-tolerant, too-skeptical "secular humanists" for whom, ironically, the post-Enlightenment American democracy was expressly designed.

The Republicans are wondrous manipulators of these lost souls, these disenfranchised Middle Americans....

The Day the Enlightenment Went Out ('04)

Link: The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

by Garry Wills
New York Times
Nov. 4, 2004

[excerpted; full text at the above link]

... [Dubya's re-election] might be called Bryan's revenge for the Scopes trial of 1925, in which William Jennings Bryan's fundamentalist assault on the concept of evolution was discredited. Disillusionment with that decision led many evangelicals to withdraw from direct engagement in politics. But they came roaring back into the arena out of anger at other court decisions - on prayer in school, abortion, protection of the flag and, now, gay marriage....

Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?...

We now resemble [the secular states of modern Europe] less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

It is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other. We torture the torturers, we call our God better than theirs - as one American general put it, in words that the president has not repudiated.

President Bush promised in 2000 that he would lead a humble country, be a uniter not a divider, that he would make conservatism compassionate. He did not need to make such false promises this time. He was re-elected precisely by being a divider, pitting the reddest aspects of the red states against the blue nearly half of the nation....

The moral zealots will, I predict, give some cause for dismay even to nonfundamentalist Republicans. Jihads are scary things. It is not too early to start yearning back toward the Enlightenment.

Why Americans Hate Democrats ('04)

Link: "Why Americans Hate Democrats"
by Jane Smiley
Slate, Nov. 4, 2004

[excerpted; full article at above link]

... It's time to be honest about our antagonists....

The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry....

Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states....

The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America.... The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you -- if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

Next, they tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen....

The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do -- they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable....

Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor.... (* See below)

A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey -- workers and consumers.

The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now....

remember that threats to democracy from the right always collapse. Whatever their short-term appeal, they are borne of hubris and hatred, and will destroy their purveyors in the end.

- - - - - - - -

(*) Now, in 2010, that reminds me of this:

Barack Obama caught on cellphone video during a campaign fund-raiser in April '08:

"... Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives....

"It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations...."

Full video (Click "more info" on the right for the transcript.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unitarian Jihad ('05)

Link: "Unitarian Jihad"
by Jon Carroll
San Francisco Chronicle
April 8, 2005

[excerpted; full text at the link above.]

... Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary....

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!...

Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea?...

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other.... Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone....

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again!...

This startling new underground group spreads lack of panic! Citizens declare themselves "relatively unafraid" of threats of undeclared rationality. People can still go to France, terrorist leader says....

- - - - - -

Find your Unitarian Jihad name at the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why are gay pride celebrations still needed? ('88)

[OK, so I'm cheating a bit with the "best letters" tag below. This isn't exactly a letter, but it's my best article (so far) on the need for being out and speaking out.]

This appeared in The Occidental April 22, 1988:

FROM THE DESK OF
Rodney Hoffman

Maybe you're saying, "Lesbian and Gay Awareness Week? Why? What more do I need to be aware of?"

Let me tell you a story. This is a story from the bad old days, say 20 years ago.

You're in high school. Dating and sex are even more confusing than they were supposed to be. Something isn't right. Your hormones are raging, but not always "correctly." Your eye is caught by the "wrong" people and pictures. Your daydreams veer in unintended directions, no matter how you try to keep them on course.

You try to talk to friends, family, clergy, but they don't want to hear about it, or they don't believe it, or they just condemn it, or they say, "Ignore it. It will go away."

But nothing seems to work -- not prayer, not counseling, not cold showers. You try dating much more often, but it's clear your date's feelings and expectations don't match yours. You fear you're just using people, and you worry about hurting them.

You know what "homosexual" means -- queer, cursed, sick, sinful, criminal. You live in a society that hates you. You begin to hate yourself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Well, I won't stay with the story; you get the idea. Pretty depressing. It was a pretty common true story. Those of us who lived through something like that don't enjoy remembering it. After I fought my way past all that confusion and hatred, I was still bitterly angry, and I asked myself, "What can I do to make life easier for others? What in the world can help a sexually confused 15-year-old?"

"But," you say, "that was 20 years ago. Things are different now." Yes, a little bit, but not enough.

Thankfully, one difference is that many colleges now have gay and lesbian student groups like Oxy's GALA. GALA offers a safe support group, a source of friends and social activities, a resource for learning about the outside lesbian and gay community, and a place to work for further needed changes.

Another difference is political. We've successfully changed some of the worst laws, educated some politicians, even elected some of our own. We have non-discrimination laws in some cities like Los Angeles. But the opportunistic hate-mongers are still with us. Look at Proposition 69 we'll be voting on in a few weeks. The state defeated it less than two years ago by more than 70%, but it's back on the ballot again, a little worse. State Assemblymember LaFollette wants to blackmail the Los Angeles School District into stopping its groundbreaking gay counseling program, Project 10 at Fairfax High. There's lots of work still to do in politics.

What about other institutions? Religion, psychiatry, media, schools, the arts, employers, .... In every field, there have been some positive changes, and there is plenty of work still to do.

Still, all of this desperately-needed work with institutions and organizations is only a small part of the answer. As one gay writer has put it, "We demand only the freedom to be who we are. The fact that this demand, which takes away nothing from anyone else, is met with such obstinate resistance is a noteworthy indication of how deep-seated is the hostility against us."

People feel such hostility because they were brought up that way. To really help that anguished 15-year-old, I have to reach his or her parents and family and friends and clergy and .... you. The hurt can only stop if the world around that 15-year-old changes. THAT'S why we have a Lesbian and Gay Awareness Week. THAT'S "what more" there is to be aware of.

When I was younger and more idealistic I wanted to change the world. I still do. Join me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dubya: changing a lightbulb ('05)

Floating around online in 2005:

Q: How many Bush Administration officials does
it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light
bulb; its condition is improving every day.
Any reports of its lack of incandescence are
illusional spin from the liberal media.
Illuminating rooms is hard work. That light
bulb has served honorably, and anything you
say undermines the lighting effort. Why do
you hate freedom?

Post-election slogans ('04)

Spotted at Cafepress in Dec. 2004:

Is it 2008 yet?

Proud to be an American who did NOT vote for Bush

Virtual Canadian: The U.S. is just where I happen to live.

I voted, and all I got was this lousy President.

Frodo has failed. Bush has the ring.

Don't blame me. I voted against Bush TWICE!

Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community

You can't be pro-war and pro-life.

Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism.

My next license plate will be made by Bush and Cheney.

Religious fundamentalism: A threat abroad, a threat at home.

It is not morally wrong, an affront to God, or a threat to Homeland Security to question George W. Bush's destructive policies.

No child left without a deficit

I'm too informed to be a Republican.

He's STILL not my President.

Baja Canada (on a California flag)

Proud to be a South Canadian

Canadica

If you destroy the foundation of this country to defend it, then what are you defending?

I see dumb people. (with a red-state map)

Secession not concession

I think for myself. Therefore I am a liberal.

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Jesus was a liberal.

Pro-Constitution. Anti-Bush.

W stands for Wrong.

It's a new mourning in America.

We've been amBUSHED.

Garboden: "Screw You, America" (for re-electing Dubya) ('04)

Link: "Screw You, America" by Clif Garboden

[excerpted; full text at the link above]

Don't forgive my anger. All this needs to be said. And I know that as soon as that stiff-faced to-the-manure-born right-wing lackey in the White House tries to appoint a 21st-century counterpart to Roy Bean to the Supreme Court in a few weeks, more people are going to wish they'd said it sooner....

What the fuck is wrong with you?! You voted against your self-interest at every turn....

Okay, you want God? Let's talk about God. Your religion is bogus. Fundamentalism, the facile belief in the unexplained and un-researched, is something you born-agains (couldn't get it right the first time, huh?) share with Al Qaeda, whose ideologues doggedly adhere to religious misinterpretations every bit as silly and dangerous as yours. Just like you, Muslim fundamentalists long to impose an unrealistic and intolerant pseudo-Calvinist morality on the world....

Well, sorry to burst your holy bubble, Jesus freaks, but God did not create the world in seven days; that's just ignorant. Like a lot of stuff in the Bible, it didn't happen....

Does it really bother you cornpone chuckleheads that "we" think you're under-educated, culturally limited and ignorant? Well, how about proving us wrong? For starters, get this straight: There were no weapons of mass destruction; the Iraqis did not attack the World Trade Center; lots of children (including many of yours) are left behind every day; the greenhouse effect is for real; and the Dixie Chicks were right. Pin down a few of those basics and then perhaps we'll talk....

I know (because I've been so chided) that there are lots of good, right-thinking/left-leaning liberals out there who feel it's my responsibility to "understand" you. These are good people; unlike you assholes, they voted the right way. But this is why in true progressive circles the word liberal attracts adjectives such as "wishy-washy," "self-serving" and "useless." ...

You've been duped, and the Bushies are laughing at you behind your spineless backs right now. The Republicans don't care about you; they just wanted your vote so they can stay in power and make their oil-and-blood-soaked cronies even richer.... They're going to toss you a minuscule tax cut in exchange for under-funding public education and social services....

They're going to shower the pharmaceutical companies with excess profits while denying you life-saving medical attention. They're going to let corporate conglomerates fill the air you breathe with carcinogens while they discourage clean-energy research. They're going to insist the ozone layer's OK until y'all bake your little red asses off....

And you bought into it all because you're afraid. And you're afraid because they scared you. And it was all so unnecessary....

And some day, you might figure that out. Meanwhile, you deserve what we all got thanks to you, you bastards.

Mencken predicts Dubya ('04)

This was all over the net in late 2004:

Words to the Wise, from H.L. Mencken 84 years ago, Foretelling the Election of George W. Bush as president:

When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental -- men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack, or count himself lost. His one aim is to disarm suspicion, to arouse confidence in his orthodoxy, to avoid challenge. If he is a man of convictions, of enthusiasm, or self-respect, it is cruelly hard…

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even a mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second or third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically the most devious and mediocre -- the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

--H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Snopes says this is a true quote from Mencken.

Civil Marriage ('00)

I sent this letter to the Los Angeles Times in Feb. 2000 (not published):

Donielle Flot (Letters, Feb. 21) is misinformed about Proposition 22, the "Limitation on Marriage" initiative. There is an excellent reason why opponents do not address the heartfelt religious beliefs of many Prop. 22 supporters.

Pass or fail, the proposition will have no effect whatsoever on the religious sacrament of marriage. That remains solely in the hands of each religion. Prop. 22 speaks only to civil marriage law. No law, now or in the future, can ever force Flot and her co-religionists to marry same-sex couples against their beliefs.

Gay ministries ('99)

In mid-1999, the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said:

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert
Nugent, SDS, have been engaged in pastoral activities
directed toward homosexual persons for more than
twenty years. In 1977, they founded the organisation
New Ways Ministry within territory of the Archdiocese
of Washington in order to promote "justice and
reconciliation between lesbian and gay Catholics and
the wider Catholic community". They are the authors
of the book Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality
and the Catholic Church (Mystic: Twenty-Third
Publications, 1992) and editors of the volume Voices
of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on
Gay and Lesbian Issues (New York: Center for Homophobia
Education, 1995).

From the beginning, in presenting the Church's teaching
on homosexuality, Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have
continually called central elements of that teaching into
question....

The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father
Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among
the Catholic people and have harmed the community of
the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick,
SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently
prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual
persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period,
for any office in their respective religious institutes....

Link: Notification Regarding Fr. Nugent and Sr. Gramick

I sent the following short letter to the New York Times in July 1999 (not published):

I guess Gramick and Nugent did lie about the Catholic Church after all: whenever they led people to believe the Church might change.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How anyone can vote for Dubya ('04)

[I wrote this in July 2004 (just days before I found the Crowther essay below).]

I do but I don't understand how anyone can vote for Bush. It's so damn frustrating. I don't even know how to begin.

When I heard on the way home last night that Bush said he wants to be a “peace President”, I wanted to write a letter to the L.A. Times, but every time I began drafting one in my head, there were too many outrages to address. Also, I’m torn between just venting and actually trying to persuade, to make a difference, to change someone’s mind.

Here's a sampling of thoughts that kept me tossing and turning in bed early this morning….

Bush voters claim:

- It's his character. He lies every time he opens his mouth. Not just about personal pecadillos but major earth-shaking, world-changing shit. And there are self-dealing conflicts of interest everywhere in his administration. Not to mention his draft-dodging, drunken youth and incompetent business management.

- He stands by his convictions. Even when they're proved wrong. His arrogance is breath-taking. Worse, his spoken convictions are almost meaningless. He’s a liar. You have to watch his actions, which no one does, dammit! Every initiative is given a great-sounding name, even if it accomplishes the opposite. (He’s a liar.)

- He cut my taxes. That's easy if you agree to so much debt that your children will lead worse lives than you. He cut your taxes and raised your children’s and grandchildren’s taxes. Plus, he gave you a few hundred dollars and he gave his corporate and plutocrat friends millions upon millions. And this while the country is at war. Why is it illegal to buy votes with cash, but not with tax cuts that make no fiscal sense?

- He's down-to-earth. Good old American anti-intellectualism. And how the hell do people who say this manage to ignore his platinum-spoon upbringing?

- He's a believer. He’s sanctimonious, alright, but tell me something he's done as Jesus would.

- He’s one of us. If you’re Republican, white, upper-class, Christian, heterosexual, and stupid (closed-minded).

- He's fighting our enemies. No, he evaded military service. He's sending your children to die fighting the wrong enemies, while spying on everyone’s every action and keeping the public off-balance with empty threats and Richard Reid shoe dances in airports.

- He's good for the economy. If you’re in the right tax bracket. How secure is your job? How much are you saving? And just look at the deficit and the projected deficits!

I think sometimes it's just like sports. One team (political party) versus another. Never mind what the teams mean or stand for or accomplish. Once you pick a team, you turn off your mind, shout the slogans, and root. What makes a diehard fan? How do you convince a diehard fan to switch sides? Is it even possible? I gave up such fan behavior in high school, when I realized how stupid and even embarrassing it was. Is the fan mentality just perpetually juvenile? How do you make someone like that grow up?

I'm so furious at the way this game is played. Bush and team are almost as good as Reagan was at the Big Lie. And when they lie, the mainstream media won't say so. They won’t even express skepticism. That would be disrespectful, unpatriotic, and against the rules of serious journalism. Some pundits will point out the lies, but no Bush believers pay attention to them, because all those liberal pundits hate Bush and they're expected to say he's lying. The opposing candidates won't call Bush a liar because they're too polite, and “people don't like negative politics”.

The diehard Bush fans won't be swayed by anything, and the relative handful of thoughtful swayable voters probably would be turned off by a candidate constantly saying, “He's lying.” (Although “There he goes again.” might work!)

There is no objective watchdog people listen to and believe in. No one who can point out the lies, make people listen, and change their minds.

Where's a true investigative journalist when you need one? Why won't someone list all Bush's promises during the last campaign and evaluate them?

I think a lot of it is plain stupidity. Honestly, it's people who don't have open minds. They're stupid.

What can I do? I said at the top that I don’t even know how to begin, and that’s part of the problem. (When I’m in the mood to believe in vast right-wing conspiracies, I think this may even be by design. [See Is Obama Trying to Do Too Much? in this blog!]) He’s so terribly wrong about so many things, where and how do I begin to argue or fight? If we all feel this way, we can’t fight!

Crowther: "With Trembling Fingers" ('04)

Link: "With Trembling Fingers" by Hal Crowther (May 2004)

Crowther's searing essay on Dubya's first term, especially the invasion of Iraq.

[excerpted; full text at the above link]

"The nightmare misadventure in Iraq is over, beyond the reach of any reasonable argument, though many more body bags will be filled. In Washington, chicken hawks will still be squawking about "digging in" and winning, but Vietnam proved conclusively that no modern war of occupation will ever be won...."

"[E]very dollar, bullet and American life that we spend in Iraq is one that's not being spent in the war on terrorism.... [T]he invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy...."

"Thousands of young Americans are dead, maimed or mutilated, XXX billions of dollars have been wasted and all we've gained is a billion new enemies and a mouthful of dust -- of sand.... "

"Conventional wisdom says that an incumbent president with a $200 million war chest cannot be defeated, and that one who commands a live, bleeding, suffering army in the field is doubly invincible. By this logic, the most destructively incompetent president since Andrew Johnson will be rewarded with a second term...."

" A quote ... from the testimony of Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, not long before Hitler's vice-fuhrer poisoned himself in his jail cell: "... It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."..."

"I struggle against the suspicion that so many of my fellow Americans are conceptually challenged. I want to reason with my neighbors; I want to engage these lost Americans. What makes you angry, neighbor? What arouses your suspicions? Does it bother you that this administration made terrorism a low priority, dismissed key intelligence that might have prevented the 9/11 catastrophe, then exploited it to justify the pre-planned destruction of Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with al Qaeda?..."

"America [is] polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves...."

Remembering Reagan ('04)

(Click the cartoon to enlarge)


Kirk Anderson (Kirktoons) (June 2004)

American Traveler's Apology T-shirt (2004)

Link to T-shirt sale: American Traveler's Apology T-shirt (2004)

In six languages: "I'm sorry my president's an idiot. I didn't vote for him."

Iraq War rationale ('04)

(click the cartoon to enlarge)


Mike Lukovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 2004

Rules for being a Good Republican ('04)

Link: 25 Rules for being a Good Republican (2004)

including:
  • You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.
  • You have to believe that pollution is OK, so long as it makes a profit.
  • You have to believe that a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but that large multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind with no regulation whatsoever.
  • You have to believe that government medicine is wrong and that HMOs and insurance companies only have your best interests at heart.

Name That War! (Iraq 2003)

Link: Name That War! by Nicholas Kristof (NYT, Nov. 29, 2003)

[excerpted; full text at the above link]

including:
  • Dubya Dubya III
  • Rolling Blunder
  • Blood, Baath and Beyond

Dubya Bumperstickers '04

Link: Bush/Cheney '04 Bumpersnickers

[excerpted; full text at the above link]

including:
  • Bush/Cheney '04: Thanks for not paying attention
  • Bush/Cheney '04: Leave no billionaire behind

Dubya's Resumé (2003)

Link: Dubya's Resumé (2003)

[excerpted; full text at the above link]

It begins:

  • I attacked and took over two countries.
  • I spent the US surplus and bankrupted the Treasury.

Salvation Army ('04)

I sent this letter to Business Week in Dec. 2004 (not published):

To broaden their appeal, the Salvation Army would be well-advised to abandon their long-running political activism.

Despite all the good they do, I will never support them as long as they continue to fight against gay civil rights.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell ('03)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in April 2003 (not published):

Colin Powell is largely to blame for the despicable "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

In December 1992, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he strongly opposed President-elect Clinton's proposal to let gays serve openly in the armed forces.

Just imagine if instead, he had courageously said, "It's no big deal. We can implement it right away, as soon as the Commander in Chief likes."

Wasteful public spending ('02)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Oct. 2002 (not published):

The fiscal conservative in me balked at LACMA's plan to tear down buildings, but at least they initially said it would all be done with private money. Now they've changed their mind and want taxpayers to help. No way!

Iraq ('02)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Sept. 2002 (not published):

Rumsfeld says, "The issue is not inspections. The issue is disarmament." How would he propose to prove or disprove disarmament without inspections? War?!

Reverse the gun control debate ('07)


This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times Nov. 2007:

Reverse the gun control debate: Repeal the blanket right to bear arms and let those who feel strongly enough fight to grant it in special circumstances.

Keeping America safe ('02)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Oct. 2002 (not published):

Our chances of being attacked by Saddam Hussein will only be worsened if we attack him first.

Who deserves peace-lovers trust? ('03)

This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times in Jan. 2003:

[My best letter (so far) on militarism]

In his State of the Union address, President Bush said we cannot trust in Saddam Hussein's restraint. Why not? He has demonstrated far more restraint than Bush has.

In the nearly 12 long years since the end of the Gulf War, Hussein has not threatened to attack, nor positioned troops to attack, the U.S. Bush, on the other hand, in two short years in the White House, is obsessed with Iraq, unrelenting in his warmongering, and well along in preparation for attack.

Who has shown more restraint? Who is more deserving of peace-loving peoples' trust?

- - - - - -

The Times added "President" before "Bush." I refused to address Dubya by that undeserved title between 2000 and 2004.

It's the courts, stupid! ('02)

This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times Sept. 2002:

[My best letter (so far) on the courts]

Almost everything governors or presidents do can be undone by their successors. The crucial exception is judicial appointments. Many Republican judicial nominees frighten me so deeply that I will never help elect a Republican to an executive position. Some have suggested that we vote Libertarian or Green or "none of the above" for governor. I'm a registered Green, and I will happily vote for Green candidates for lower offices, but to keep right-wing ideologues off the judicial benches I must vote Democratic for governor and president. For me, it's the courts, stupid!

- - - - - -

I received phone calls from two complete strangers complimenting me on this letter.

Amend to force nominee votes ('00)

This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times Jan. 2000:

Regarding the Senate's shameful four-year delay on U.S. District Judge Richard Paez's nomination: It's time for a constitutional amendment saying that the Senate shall vote on all nominations within 120 days.

The Knight Initiative ('99)

This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times Nov. 1999:

Pete Knight says he is not telling anyone how to live. I disagree. I am in a long-term (six years) relationship with another man. If Proposition 22 passes, I cannot even dream of getting married.

My partner is a Mexican citizen, living in Mexico, without significant savings in the bank, and certainly without a wife and children. Because of this, due to our xenophobic laws, he cannot even get a tourist visa to visit me in L.A., much less live with me. So we cannot even be domestic partners.

I do not understand Pete Knight's claim that my marriage would somehow harm his.

- - - - - -

The Times chose not to print my next-to-last sentence:

Because of attitudes like Pete Knight's, I sleep alone 50 weeks of the year.

Boycotts that backfire ('97)

This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times June 1997:

So the Southern Baptists have decided to boycott Disney. Not just the corporate pieces they're unhappy with, but all of it. Of course, Disney also produces plenty of entertainment that even Baptists could agree is kid- and family-friendly. They're just asking for trouble for their denomination.

Many Catholics ignore the pope's pronouncements on sexual matters. Others, taking dogma more seriously, leave the church altogether.

I suspect the end result of the Southern Baptists' declared boycott may be the same: members ignoring the church leadership, or deciding to leave.

The "yuck factor" ('97)

This letter of mine was published in the Honolulu Advertiser in June 1997:

In his June 1 commentary on same-sex marriage, Chuck Sh-veev gives an incisive analysis of respect and acceptance and their foe, the 'yuck factor':

"Straights generally cannot bear the thought of
a similarity between their own expressions of
intimacy -- and those of gays ... (which straights
regard) with primitive visceral repugnance....
Whatever its origin, however it gets sustained,
this yuck factor is not going away."

I agree that this is at the heart of the matter, but I disagree that it is inevitable. It must be recognized and fought as a "social disease," something spread from one person to another.

No legislation can affect it, but there is one remedy, as every openly gay person can attest: coming out. Working one-on-one, just as the yuck factor itself, coming out can replace yuck with respect and acceptance.

Military aid ('94)

This letter of mine was published in the Los Angeles Times May 1994:

If the Senate really wanted to take a strong stand, the senators would vote to disarm the Serbs rather than to arm the Bosnians.

AIDS Education ('91)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes magazine June 1991:

[Lorraine] Day says, "Ethically, a doctor should have the right to test any patient for anything."

I strongly disagree, especially in the case of AIDS, for two reasons.

First, although testing can reveal that patients are HIV-positive, there is no way it can tell you they are HIV-negative. That being the case, what difference could the HIV-positive information make? Any difference in a doctor's risk analysis (and subsequent care) between the two is completely unfounded. Instead, the only prudent course is for the care-giver to take appropriate precautions with all patients.

Second, if I were an HIV-positive patient and if my medical facility treated all patients with the dignity, care and respect for personal privacy they deserved, I would have no hesitation revealing my HIV-positive status to them. Unfortunately, as has been shown in many individual cases and in a number of larger studies, most medical facilities refuse to treat HIV-positive patients with dignity and respect (or, in some cases, at all).

That being the case, I will continue to lobby for denying care-givers the blanket right to know patients' HIV status. I am sincerely sorry that this is necessary.

Innocence ('89)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes Feb. 1989:

[Colman] McCarthy tells of 23 wrongful executions, and how many people find that acceptable. It horrifies me, and I am ashamed for our country.

Doesn't anyone else remember civics classes which taught "innocent until proven guilty," and "the burden of proof is on the prosecution," and "better that 100 criminals go free than that one innocent person is convicted"? I remember how proud I was to learn that our justice system honored those exacting rules.

It wasn't just me. Everyone I knew really believed in those precepts. When did that change?

Today, anyone speaking up for such ideals is ridiculed as "soft on crime" and as "caring more about the rights of the criminal than the rights of the victim."

No one sees any distinction between "accused" and "guilty" when it comes to violent crimes; instead anyone charged with a violent crime is labeled a criminal. The general public and, of course, all politicians, have joined the prosecutors and police in decrying rules which protect the accused.

When did it change?

AIDS Education ('88)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes Oct. 1988:

[My best letter (so far) on AIDS]

Thank you for your editorial "AIDS: No on 96." I wholeheartedly agree.

You are, however, much too kind to Sheriff Sherman Block, the prime sponsor of Proposition 96, and to state Sens. Gary Hart and Robert Presley, who sponsored similar bills -- SB 2643 and SB 1913. All three measures represent a hysterical response to AIDS almost as bad as Proposition 102.

Unless police, emergency, and prison staff routinely share intravenous needles or have unprotected sex with prisoners and arrestees, they have little rational reason to fear HIV infection in the line of duty. Saliva, tears, sweat, and even blood on unbroken skin do not spread AIDS. Besides, as your editorial pointed out, a negative HIV-antibody test cannot be very reassuring unless a repeat test months later is still negative.

The officers in the field can be forgiven for their ignorance, since their superiors and many of our politicians are clearly ignorant themselves. Sadly, our county, state, and federal adminstrations have done little to help. Their fear-mongering is as vicious an opportunistic disease an any brought on by AIDS.

Instead of all these testing measures, we urgently need AIDS education measures.

Missile defense considered harmful ('88)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes March 1988:

Times reporters John M. Broder and Melissa Healy have been listening to Ronald Reagan, the great storyteller, too long. They can no longer tell fantasy from reality.

Today's many times revised Strategic Defense Initiative bears no resemblance at all to the original "Star Wars," now admitted as an impossible fantasy. The original goals are undermined by the latest proposed system. Instead of protecting people, it protects weapons. Instead of enabling us to discard some offensive weapons, it defends them. Instead of eliminating the need to threaten retaliation, it increases that threat. Instead of eliminating deterrence, it enhances it.

Even this latest revision is technically infeasible. We will never be able to meet the crucial computer software requirements. If we can't trust the system and the Soviets can't ignore it, it only heightens uncertainty on both sides, making the world less safe. It's no more than a vast, and vastly expensive, escalation of the arms race.

I don't call this reality, I call it fraud!

Hate TV ('87)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes Dec. 1987:

Why does Aryan Nations get so much attention for buying air time to broadcast their offensive racist propaganda? When it comes to gays and lesbians, many self-styled "religious" broadcasters spew equally ugly, pernicious, hate-filled, violence-provoking lies. They've been doing it for years, and they make money at it, partly from tax exemptions we all pay for!

Friday, March 12, 2010

You can't argue with someone who thinks they've talked to God ('09)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Oct. 2009 (not published):

You can't argue with someone who thinks they've talked to God.

I don't even want to live around such people.

Celebrity trumps all ('09)

I sent this letter to the LATimes July 2009 (not published):

I do blame Gov. Schwarzenegger for much of the state's budget troubles. But, even worse and even harder to overcome, is the mentality of his supporters, the voters who elected him based on impossible promises, and then re-elected him after he failed at every turn.

Celebrity trumps all. How we can overcome that?

Health Care Reform ('09)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in May 2009 (not published):

House Republican leader John Boehner recently said, “We’ve got the greatest health care delivery system in the world. Why do we want to jeopardize that with a big government-run health care system?”

I have two replies:

1. Just give us a choice. If no one wants the public option, we'll soon find out.

2. If government-run health insurance is so terrible, take it away from members of Congress and their staff. Force them to deal with all the private insurers, just like the rest of us.

Why I'm an angry atheist ('09)

I sent this letter to the Los Angeles Times in May 2009, in response to an op-ed by Charlotte Allen in which she complained about angry whiny atheists. My letter was not published in the Times, but it did appear in the UGLA Bulletin:

[My best letter (so far) on religion]

Let me tell you why I'm an angry atheist.

I'm a scientist, an environmentalist, a feminist, a free speech advocate, and I'm gay.

I support birth control and family planning and abortion rights. I believe that religion doesn't belong in the science classroom. I support even "blasphemous" speech. Of course, I support gay rights, including same-sex marriage. I live apart from my Mexican partner of 16+ years and can't sponsor him for immigration as my spouse.

In every case, the overwhelming majority of my opponents base their opposition on their religious beliefs.

I do indeed consider myself a victim of fundamentalist religion and the undeserved deference most people give to religious beliefs.

Furthermore, I don't believe I should be forced to subsidize my political opponents with tax exemptions just because they declare themselves churches.

Damn right I'm angry.

Obama trying to do too much? ('09)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes in April 2009:

Is President Obama trying to do too much?

I always felt that doing too much was one of the most insidiously effective strategies of the George W. Bush administration.

Every day, there was another horrible appointment or decision. By the time you put together a plan to move against one outrage, two more cropped up in entirely different policy areas. Perpetually off-balance, opponents never had time to whip up sufficient political momentum to overturn anything.

I think it's a lesson Team Obama has learned well.

Voters approve Prop. 8 ('08)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in November 2008 (not published):

The older I get, the more I despise religion.

How Obama should answer McCain ('08)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Sept. 2008 (not published):

This week's debate offers Barack Obama a chance to counter some of John McCain's charges. Here's part of what I wish he would say....

John McCain says I will raise taxes. I'm sorry Senator McCain has trouble finishing his thoughts. Instead of a two second sound bite, the complete story takes, oh, maybe thirty seconds. First, if you earn less than $250,000, your taxes will be THE SAME OR LOWER. But yes, if you get more than that, I will raise your taxes, because I want to take back some of the ill-conceived Bush tax breaks you got. Oh, and we're fighting a war in Afghanistan that's not going very well right now, and we could really use your help. I think I even have time to repeat: If you make less than $250,000, your taxes will be THE SAME OR LOWER.

John McCain says I'm wrong on Iraq. I think we were wrong to invade Iraq in 2003, especially when we were already at war in Afghanistan, much closer to our real enemies. We have, in fact, done some good things and some bad things in Iraq since then. Among the good things is we have brought the Iraqi people the freest and fairest elections they have seen in at least a generation. And, you know what? The freely, democratically elected parliament of Iraq now wants a timetable for American forces to leave Iraq. So does the Iraqi Prime Minister. So do most of the Iraqi people. So do I. So I think I was right on Iraq in 2003, and I think I am right on Iraq now. You decide.

Increase gas taxes ('08)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in April 2008 (not published):

What is with these once responsible Republicans? We have an enormous deficit, we're fighting costly wars, we're importing increasing amounts of increasingly costly foreign oil that's subsidizing our enemies, we're confronting global warming, and McCain wants a gas tax vacation? Could he be any more irresponsible? Talk about buying votes!

Hillary: Ready on Day One ('08)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in March 2008 (not published):

As First Lady, Hillary Clinton represented the country and the President at various domestic and foreign events. She also tackled particular large problems such as health care. She was even "a heartbeat away from the Presidency."

It's clear that her experience would indeed make her ready on Day One -- to be Vice President.

Why I'm not married ('08)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes in Feb. 2008:

[My best letter (so far) on marriage]

I've been in a very long-distance monogamous relationship with a Mexican citizen for almost 15 years. In the 90s, we applied three times for a tourist visa for my partner to just visit me here in Los Angeles. The application was refused each time.

We gave up. I visit Mexico, and together, we've gone to Costa Rica and to Canada.

"Why not just get married?" you ask. That would be nice, but we're gay.

Drug War ('07)

I sent this letter to the LATimes Sept. 2007 (not published):

The only reason the Taliban are able to make so much money from poppies is that heroin is illegal.

Why not treat all illegal drugs as we do alcohol: legalize, regulate and tax them.

What a change that will make to Al Queda, Mexican drug lords, drug-related gang violence in our own streets, prison over-crowding, and so much else. Not to mention the money we'll save by giving up the pointless Drug War.

Plutocracy ('07)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in July 2007 (not published):

I'm not as optimistic as Brooks. She believes the Bush era
will "seem like a bad dream, a shameful, inexplicable interlude
in American history." I fear that this new, more brazen American
plutocracy will endure.

Corporations own both the politicians and the media. The amoral
politicians care only about getting re-elected, and their cagey
advisors excite voters over trivial issues. The profit-driven media
play along.

And finally, without any sustained outrage from their leaders or
their news, the populace stays just barely too fat, dumb,
entertained and distracted to care.

Two party Congress ('07)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in May 2007 (not published):

Bush isn't giving up on neocons because of any conversion. It's just that he no longer has a Senate that will approve his every appointment.

Reagan's hypocrisy ('07)

This letter of mine was published in Time magazine in April 2007:

Hypocrisy is at the root of the sad situation on the political right, and Ronald Reagan started it [March 26]. He said the right things in a most seductive manner. Despite his talk of small government and fiscal responsibility, the federal bureaucracy and the national debt both grew tremendously under his guidance. Politicians say whatever the audience wants to hear, even if their words are completely divorced from reality. Whether discussing budget forecasts, civil liberties, the environment or reasons for war and the readiness of troops, they are just uttering patriotic-sounding lies.

- - - - [ As I wrote it: ] - - - - -

Hypocrisy is at the root of the sad situation of the Right, and Reagan himself started it.

He said the Right things, in a most seductive manner, but he didn't live up to it, and he would never admit it. Despite his talk of small government and fiscal responsibility, the federal bureaucracy and the national debt both grew tremendously under his guidance.

This led directly to today's pervasive political double-speak and denial. Politicians simply say whatever the audience wants to hear, even if that is completely divorced from reality. From the names of Congressional bills, to budget forecasts, to professed devotion to fiscal restraint, civil liberties, the environment or scientific research, even to the reasons for war and the readiness of troops -- it's all patriotic-sounding lies, repeated endlessly and never questioned by the press.

Non-discrimination ('05)

This letter of mine was published in Business Week in June 2005:

Your report says that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) first withdrew its support, then changed its mind, on "gay rights legislation" ("Culture wars hit Corporate America," Special Report, May 23). But the bill did not, in fact, raise any tough issue. It was not explicitly about gay marriage, but only employment nondiscrimination. The only people who seem to think that nondiscrimination is controversial are professional hate-mongers who use such topics to foment bigotry, falsely frighten, and, most of all, raise money. Microsoft is right to renew its support for fundamental fairness such as nondiscrimination legislation.

Legalize Marijuana ('05)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in June 2005 (not published):

I share the letter writers' anger over the criminalizing of medical marijuana.

But let's remember who's at fault here. The Supreme Court only said the law is constitutional. It's Congress who came up with the law in the first place.

We should aim our anger where it can do some good: at the craven politicians who are unwilling to take any campaign heat about being "soft on drugs".

"Borrow and Spend" vs. "Tax and Spend" ('04)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in July 2004 (not published):

I sure wish someone would explain to me why supposedly conservative Republicans prefer "borrow and spend" over "tax and spend".

Even at today's low interest rates, this year's huge borrowing will cost us taxpayers far, far more over the long haul than paying now, via taxes. What's the fiscal sense in that? Oh, I forgot -- these legislators will be long out of office by then.

Morals ('04)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in May 2004 (not published):

Contrary to Hagelin's claim, it doesn't take prayer in school,
Bible readings, or even a belief in God to believe in civility,
decency, and the Golden Rule.

Buying votes ('04)

Draft letter (not sent) in March 2004:

Dubyah's and Ahnold's latest approval ratings leave me with one question. Why is it illegal to buy votes with cash, but not with tax cuts that make no fiscal sense?

Civil Marriage ('04)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Feb. 2004 (not published):

Doesn't anyone at the White House understand the
difference between civil and religious marriage?

Sanctity of Marriage ('03)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in Nov. 2003 (not published)

Bush says he wants to "defend the sanctity of marriage." By definition, sanctity is a topic for churches. No court, no law, no constitutional amendment can force a church to sanctify a marriage if it doesn't want to. The sanctity of marriage does not need defense and cannot be affected by governments.

Besides, I'm still waiting for someone to explain how a gay marriage could possibly harm anyone else's marriage!

9/11 fatwa ('01)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes in September 2001:

Why isn't there a fatwa against Osama bin Laden for blasphemy against Islam?

Do-Not-Call Lists ('01)

This letter of mine was published in the LATimes in August 2001:

[My best letter (so far) on marketing]

Before a telemarketer completes two sentences I say, "I'm not
interested; please put me on your do-not-call list," and I hang up.

If they used a state-wide "do-not-call" list, they wouldn't have to
waste their time calling me, and I wouldn't be annoyed by their calls.

It's a win-win situation.

I can only guess that the "influential business interests" opposing
SB771 arrogantly believe that they're the exception: If they could
call me, they're such good salespeople that I'd not only listen to
their pitch, but I'd buy and buy.

I have news for them: It ain't gonna happen.

I emphatically support SB771.

News Bites Considered Useful ('01)

This letter of mine appeared in Howard Rosenberg's TV column (LATimes) in August 2001:

Those who only see Headline News are dangerously uninformed. (Although they're better off than those who only watch local so-called "news" broadcasts!) But Headline News has its place.

Yes, some of the pop-up headlines -- CNN promos and celebrity gossip -- don't belong. But if you're a news junkie, the rest are not bad. To answer your questions, I know exactly what "G-8" refers to, and where Mt. Pinatubo is. After all, both have been in the news quite a bit in recent weeks.

I don't suffer from attention deficit; I'm 50, not 20; and I depend on newspapers (in print and online) for news and information, not TV. But that's just the point: Quick headlines serve me well at times, because I get all the details from the papers.

Worthlessness of social statistics ('01)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in June 2001 (not published):

Social statistics may be amusing points of conversation,
but they are of little practical value. People who think
that they are useful for everday interactions or in
formulating policy are misguided.

Whatever you may know about 62% or 78% or even 99.9% of
middle-aged white males residing in ZIP code 90031 tells
you absolutely nothing you can rely on about me.

And policy-makers, who deal with far larger populations,
should be even more careful not to rely on any social
statistics to make universal laws or regulations.

It's the Supreme Court, stupid! ('00)

I sent this letter to the LATimes in December 2000 (not published):

The U.S. Supreme Court proves that political self-preservation trumps all. The court's right-wing majority has now guaranteed its own survival for decades to come.

It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

Radical Religious Right ('98)

Let's next start with some of my letters to publications (those that got published and some that didn't)

This letter of mine was published in Business Week in September 1998:

Gary Bauer ("Rumble on the Right", Sept. 14) claims to love his country, but he despises the federal government and its employees, unless, of course, they're forcing his will on the rest of us.

He doesn't want "the Washington bureaucracy to get within 100 miles" of public schools when it comes to education standards, but he hopes to convince the federal courts to be right there to allow prayer in the classroom. He says "Washington will regulate a business to death" but he encourages them to regulate our sex lives. He supports human rights (instead of freer trade) with China, but his pinched view not only omits women's reproductive freedom, but wants to make global trade agreements conditional on abortion restrictions.

Bauer's agenda is nothing but self-serving hypocrisy.

If the radical religious right wins its political battles, it will be the death of the Republican Party.

- - - -

The letter is online at Business Week -- the third letter down on this page.

Obscenity Examples

Let's start with my Obscenity Examples:

I find obscene:

  • DUBYA'S INVASION OF IRAQ. He should have been impeached!
  • Closed minds.
  • Anti-intellectualism.
  • News "reporters" who ask no tough questions. (Where are all the investigative journalists?!)
  • The amount of money spent on political campaigns.
  • Bigotry, especially political and religious "leaders" who foment it.
  • Being forced to subsidize it. No tax exemption for hate speech! Tax all religious organizations and their property, television networks, voter guides, etc.
  • The family values of those who praise Family Values the loudest.
  • Religions that want to run outsiders' lives.
  • Religions that encourage murder for acts of free speech.
  • Religions that kill for acts of consensual sex.
  • Religious bans on contraception for even the poorest families. Let those churches support all those kids!
  • Being told my marriage would harm yours.
  • The evil, cruelly-named "Defense Of Marriage Act" and now, the Federal Marriage Amendment.
  • Our xenophobic and homophobic immigration laws. (Please urge Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act! See why I care here.)
  • Corporate welfare such as:
  • Political hypocrites
    • who want to cut all government except, of course, for corporate welfare.
    • who shout "No new taxes!" but don't mind enormous new deficits.
    • who bad-mouth bureaucrats but want to regulate my sex life.
    • who cry about government spending for social welfare, but can always find more money for war.
  • The War on (some) Drugs (and vice laws in general). (For more about the War on Drugs, see this and this and this and this.)
  • Thinking that any person's labor could possibly be worth thousands of dollars an hour, every hour, day in and day out. (See this and this, too.)
  • That the District of Columbia is not a state.
  • The anti-democratic rules of the U.S. Senate.
  • The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (Reverse the gun control debate: Repeal the blanket right to bear arms, and let those who feel strongly enough fight to grant it in special circumstances.)
  • Those who call sex obscene.
  • Those who combine sex with violence in any context, including rhetorically.
  • The fawning, uncritical, free-ride coverage of the Salvation Army, never mentioning their long-running activism opposing gay civil rights.
    (Put this in their kettles!)

If you have some good links to help illustrate these obscenities, please let me know. Thanks!


Welcome

This is not the usual "About me". This is an explanation.

(For odds and ends about me, try this.)

This is not a normal blog. Instead, it's a repository for my mostly political mailings to selected friends. And it's not in order. And it's not yet complete. I started with all my letters to the editor, both published and unpublished. Then I began posting the political items, starting with some from 2003. I add a few more when I can. It's an ongoing project.

More recently, I added posts and photos from my travels, and my autograph collection and occasional personal notes.

About the blog name: The political material I initially wanted to capture here was mostly about the Dubya years. I was very angry, and sometimes depressed, during those years. And I was also upset that others were not as outraged as I was! That's what the title reflects. The later, more non-political posts, don't fit the title, but I won't change it.

You can just dive right in, starting anywhere. Or you might want to select a particular topic.

To reach me: rodneyhoffman@gmail.com.