dalai lama

His Holiness is up there somewhere. (Yeah, I was in the cheap seats.)

Just got back from watching His Holiness The Dalai Lama at Regions Field here in Birmingham.  Loved his message, almost as much for its simplicity as anything else.

  • His main point was that at the fundamental level, we are ALL human.  That differences such as race, religion, region, etc. are all secondary to the fact to the sameness that we are all human.  And that should be the focus.
  • He seems to be very humble.  He says that if he came out trying to be all “I’m His Holiness The Dalai Lama” and thus special, he would create his own prison and would not be able to connect with others.
  • He made a special point that there are 1 billion people in the world that are part of no religion, and that you can’t just cast those people aside.  He said everyone deserves love and happiness.  He said that’s why secularism is important, which he defined as respect for not only all religions but also for the lack of religion.
  • He was not very kind to his generation (and anyone over the age of 30) in regards to its overreliance on violence in an effort to solve problems.  He basically said it would be up to the next generation to clean up our mess and create a culture of dialogue (because of course we will always have disagreements).  Only then would we have a peaceful world.

So simple.  But clearly also so hard.  But I think we could go a long way towards a more peaceful, happy, just world by simply respecting and loving one another, realizing that we are all the same at the most fundamental level, and trying to have a little more empathy because of that.

Alabama-Governor-Robert-Bentley

We are about a month away from elections, and our governor in Alabama is up for reelection.  How is he doing?

UNEMPLOYMENT/JOBS:

  • Unemployment is down, just like it is across the rest of the nation.  However, the latest unemployment figure for Alabama is still at 6.9%, while nationally it is 5.9%.  Through July, Alabama’s job growth rate since 2010 has been 3.9%.  Arkansas is the only other state with as low of job growth rate.

    What does Bentley say?  Alabama is not doing terrible, it’s doing great!  Why we have the lowest employment in the “deep south”!  What’s the “deep south” you may ask?  From as near as I can tell looking at unemployment statistics, the “deep south” equals to Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.  But I guess “Vote Bentley, because hey, at least we are better than Georgia and Mississippi” was rejected as a campaign slogan.

HEALTH CARE:

  • 14% of Alabamians do not have health insurance.  A large chunk could have been taken out of that figure if we would have accepted Medicaid expansion.  Additionally, Alabama misses out on an influx of federal funds (which one study says could have created up to $20 billion of economic activity).  But it’s okay.  I am sure even though we rank lowly in such measures as diabetes, physical inactivity, premature deaths, etc., there’s no real need for expanded health care access in this state.

    What does Bentley say?  Really, all you have to say is “Obamacare”.  And while Bentley is a doctor and I think he knows better, the one job he definitely wants to save is his own.  No way he was going to back this.  (And as such, you could make the case that this is our fault as state citizens.)  Officially he blathers on about not being able to afford it, even though the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of expansion for 3 years and 95% of the cost thereafter.  Also mentions the fact that federal tax money is the same as state tax money, though really that’s irrelevant since it’s not like there’s going to be an Alabama Medicaid opt-out federal tax deduction.  Alabamians are going to pay the same federal taxes whether or not the state accepts the expansion.  Oh, and he says something about siphoning money away from our oh so good education

EDUCATION:

  • The Alabama Accountability Act was supposed to allow poor kids in “failing” schools a path to get away.  In practice, though, it has basically been only used as a means to fund private school students and to create another corporate tax break, reducing the money available to public schools.  (My crazy idea would be to try to fix the failing schools, that way all would have access to quality education.)

    What does Bentley say?  He does take the opportunity to actually brag that he tried to snag teachers a 2% pay raise for 2013 and 2014.  He fails to mention that in 2014 he failed and signed the budget anyway.  But I guess it’s the thought that counts?  Otherwise, besides stating the need to do better (duh), not much.

ABORTION:

  • Alabama just passed a law that actually allows judges to appoint a lawyer for a fetus of all things.  This is for instances where minors cannot secure their parent’s permission for an abortion and thus has to get a judge’s permission.  This appointed lawyer in turn can actually call witnesses to testify against the minor.  In addition, even if the minor wins the judge’s approval, the district attorney can actually appeal the decision to a higher court.  Then the minor gets to go through the process all over again.  (It also happens in Alabama that if the pregnancy goes past 20 weeks, you can’t get an abortion.  So you could see where one might get the idea that this process is actually all about ‘running out the clock’ so to speak.)

    This law will be tested (ACLU has already sued), much like the law that required that doctors working at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals (which would have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state from five to two) was challenged and recently ruled unconstitutional.  I wish though that the debates and legislation surrounding this issue were more honest, as those who want such laws simply do not agree that women have a right to choose to abort a fetus and are just trying to find ways to bypass Roe v. Wade.  Any other claims about safety or health of anyone else is just poppycock.

    What does Bentley say?    In fairness, Bentley says that he will do everything in his power to protect the unborn, so I would imagine that includes trying to subvert Roe v. Wade.

But nevermind any of that.  This is Alabama.  Let’s look at what’s important here.  Surprising I can’t find any claims of being any great super-duper conservative on his website.  But he certainly talks a lot about the jobs he’s going to create (for realz this time!).  He would certainly vote against Obamacare if he could.  The “Creator’ gets a couple of shout-outs.  And he hints that the rights guaranteed by that “Creator” needs protecting.  And he also talks about all the money we are saving and how the federal government could learn a thing or two (balancing the budget!).  So in Alabama, that gets you a win.

Oh, it probably helps that I am not sure there’s a real alternative running against him.  The Democratic candidate, Parker Griffith, is one of those guys who was once a Democrat, then a Republican, and then a Democrat again.  Now maybe he’s legitimately changed his mind that many times, but it makes me think he is probably a political opportunist.  But even worse, Griffith used a recent influx of campaign money to create ads claiming that Bentley lied to win his election.  The problem is that the Griffith’s own ad lies when it says Bentley promised a vote on a state lottery for education.  Bentley never said any such thing, and made it clear he opposes such a lottery (he did say that if the legislature approved a public vote, he wouldn’t block it…not nearly the same as promising a public vote himself).

All the things Griffith could use to distinguish himself from Bentley, and he decides to make something up?  Blah, politics.  Another vote I probably sit out.

Back To The Future

Posted: September 6, 2014 in Current Events
Tags: , , , ,
Ok, let me set this thing for.....blah, does it even matter?

Ok, let me set this thing for…..blah, does it even matter?

But not in a good way.  More in a Biff Tannen rules the universe sort of way.  It seems like everything is just reverting to the past.

For example

ferguson 1 ferguson 3 ferguson 4

Race riots.  Looks like things are blowing up in Los Angeles again.  Or maybe this is Chicago?  It’s the 60’s..or the 90’s…all over again.  Wait, say that again?  No way!  That’s in Ferguson, Missouri????  A town of 20,000 or so?  So why the heck is their police more armed than G.I. Joe (being armed through the teeth is half the battle!)?   Whatever the case, perhaps Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court was a bit premature to declare things all good on the matters of race.  And maybe we need to reconsider whether the police exists to protect and serve the public or do they exist as an occupying army?

Well, with all the violence stateside, it’s a good thing the wars overseas are winding down.   Wait, why are we seeing Shock and Awe again in Iraq on the old television?   Oh, that’s now?  We are bombing in Iraq again?  And what the heck is an ISIL?  A group that’s worse than Al Qaeda????   That’s just freakin’ great.   Wonderful.   So we need to “dismantle” them and follow them through the “gates of hell”?  Ah….I know this drill.  (The old “boogeyman” sell…just replace Saddam Hussein with ISIL.)  Great.  Wonderful.  So when do we send the troops back into Iraq?  (I mean who knew that destabilizing a country would cause destabilization, which could potentially give rise to an extremist group, right?)

Well, maybe everything will be ok, as long as the next President has a well-reasoned foreign policy.  You know, somebody who didn’t support the Iraq War.  Or support going around arming rebel groups in Syria.  Or making reckless comparisons of Putin to Hitler or says Putin doesn’t have a soul.  Or support corrupt leaders like Hosni Mubarak.  Stupid Bush.   Wait, not Bush?  Ah, ok, stupid McCain, good thing we didn’t elect him.  Wait, not McCain either?  Who?  Hillary Clinton?  The person who everyone says is the frontrunner to be elected President in 2016?  Oh great.  Wonderful.   More war hawks.

Progress, why must you be so darn slow?

supreme court

As The Supreme Court has been handing down decisions over the last couple of weeks, it is interesting to try to follow their logic:

  • Constitutionality can be determined with a tape measure, but proper distance varies –  The court said that Massachusetts law that created a 35 foot protest buffer zone around the entrance of abortion clinics was unconstitutional.  This despite the fact that the Supreme Court enjoys its own protest buffer zone (which happens to be greater than 35 feet…by a good bit).  And while the decision was technically 9-0, some of the justices suggested that a lesser distance would be ok.  Not sure how distances worked its way into the Constitution.  Ten feet is free speech, but thirty-five feet is not?  But then one hundred and fifty feet is free speech again around the Supreme Court?  (How great the distance 35 feet is would be a matter of perspective.)
Supreme Court Justice, "But we are very important people."

Supreme Court Justice, “But we are very important people.”

  • Corporations are people my friend – Mitt Romney was pretty much right as far as the law sees.  Corporations can exercise its freedom of religion, though it is hard to see how legal entities could have any views on religion or anything else for that matter.  (It is also hard to see how Hobby Lobby was particularly burdened by its health care plan providing coverage for contraceptives when prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, their health care coverage DID cover contraceptives and the owners of Hobby Lobby didn’t even notice.)
  • The court can change its mind within 24 hours – One of the things that the Hobby Lobby ruling noted was that those with a religious objection could fill out a form asking for an exemption.  As such, the government could easily accommodate the religious views of organizations.  But then the next day, it ruled that Wheaton College could even opt out of filling out the form asking for an exemption because apparently even filling out a form is an overwhelming burden against its religious beliefs.   Guess the court forgot what it had said the day before.
  • The Senate can totally fake it – President Barack Obama tried to make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was off.  However the Senate (with the exact purpose of preventing such a thing) held what was called pro forma sessions, which basically means somebody comes in a slams the gavel down twice and it counts as “being in session”, not in recess.  The Supreme Court said that was good enough for them.  (In fairness, it was Democrats that created this tactic, so they shouldn’t have been surprised to see it used against them.  In fairness to we the people though, such shenanigans shouldn’t be allowed by either party in my view.)
Must...take...loss...with...dignity.  Must...try...to....smile.

Must…take…loss…with…dignity. Must…try…to….smile.

Let me be the…er…probably last to express shock, shock I tell you, that GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary.  Apparently when in our local election a candidate referenced Eric Cantor as being not conservative enough, that actually did and does resonate with some voters.  Still, Cantor had a 95 (out of 100) lifetime conservative rating from The American Conservative Union.  So what the heck happened?  How does a guy like Eric Cantor lose to a Joe Blow nobody?  Surely it’s not because he’s only 95% conservative instead of 99.44% pure conservative.  Right?

First, let’s check Joe Blow’s credentials.  I assume he has a name other than Joe Blow.  Let’s see, looks like it’s David Brat.  He is a “true” conservative (not like that Cantor phony!).  Surprise, surprise, he’s going to end Obamacare.  He’s a ‘create jobs by getting rid of immigration’ type of guy, so there he earns double points.  Balance budget amendment…check.   Christian values under attack?  Oh yeah, and in a big way.   They are under attack in such a way that they threaten life itself!  Oh, and by the way, God is pro-gun.  Betcha didn’t know that!   So anyway, certainly a very conservaty conservative.

The punditry pretty much decided that Cantor lost because he had made some comments that could represent tepid support for very limited immigration reform.  In fact, they declared immigration reform is now dead.   Hmm….call me crazy, but for something to die, it must have been alive in the first place.  Immigration reform was never going anywhere.  It already didn’t have enough support.  It wasn’t one vote to the good and then they lost that vote or anything.  Nothing changed.  In fact, Eric Cantor was pretty much screaming to the roof tops that oh no, he did not support immigration reform.  So the idea that Eric Cantor was going to be some sort of knight in shiny armor riding in to save immigration reform is just false.

Really, I think the reason Cantor lost is more nuanced than just a single issue.  I think you can go into several factors.  One, it’s what can happen when not many voters show up at a primary…it just doesn’t take that many votes to swing an outcome.  (Brat only got 36,000 votes or so.)  It can be what happens when you gerrymander, the views in a single district can become pretty extreme.  I think perhaps Cantor was more vulnerable to the ‘establishment’ tag being an actual House leader and not just a rank and file member.  And there is certainly a segment of the electorate who do not believe that they send people to Washington to be pragmatic but rather to fight an “enemy” that is the other party on all fronts.  That means you fight the debt ceiling raises.  You go ahead and shut down government over budget issues.  Not just some of time, every time.  Anything else is losing.

More than anything, Cantor’s loss is not a sign of change.  It’s just another symptom of the way things have become.  The ‘do-nothing’ Congress controlled by Republicans will just continue to do nothing, at least while there’s still a Democrat in the White House.

Yeah, I know that makes me a bad citizen.  But here’s the thing, to matter in Alabama, you pretty much have to vote in the GOP primary, like it or not.  And since I am not a big fan of the current day GOP, right off the bat I get discouraged.  But we do have a recent opening for the U.S. House Rep (Spencer Bachus is finally leaving after what I am thinking is about 100 years of service).  So lots of candidates have jumped in (not often there’s not an incumbent running after all).  So the other day, I start my research:

Paul DeMarco

Let’s see, he is the “committed conservative” (good to know, don’t like that half-ass stuff!).  Ok, ending Obamacare, supporting local business (jobs!), balancing the budget, Christian values under attack….ok, looks like he hits all the “conservative” talking points.   Next.

Chad Mathis

Ooh, he’s a “movement conservative with a spine”!  (Paul  you wuss!)  Oh, he’s ending Obamacare*.  A small market businessman who will fight for the free market economy (jobs!).  Check off balancing the budget.  He is Christian. (Are the values under attack?  Anyway, since he opens with that, I am sure he will protect those values!)  *Uh oh, when you look at the fine print though, Chad Mathis actually SUPPORTS some provisions of Obamacare.  Oops.  I’m sure his opponents exploited that in all the ads I’ve been ignoring.  Sorry Chad, better luck next time.

Will Brooke

Ok, he is the “experienced conservative” (he was conservative while you were still crapping in diapers Paul and Chad!).  Ok, he’s ending Obamacare too, a businessman (jobs!), reign in federal spending (balancing the budget I’m sure), and he teaches Sunday School (no mention whether Christian values are under attack, but he does support “traditional values”.)  Hold on, hold on.  How do I know you aren’t pulling a Chad Mathis and are not secretly cool with at least parts of the Obamacare law?

OMG!!!  Ok, if you didn’t watch, he takes a copy of a bill and shoots with a pistol.  Still not convinced?  He then shoots with a rifle.  Yeah, but that’s not serious.  Alright, he shoots with a f’n semi-automatic assault rifle!!!!  But darn it, it’s still there.  Finally he throws in the whole darn thing into a wood chipper (I must admit, I am a little disappointed he didn’t somehow secure a tank.  I guess even Alabama has SOME limits).  He’s not only going to end Obamacare, he is going to kick its ass!

Scott Beason

Scott is “Alabama’s foremost conservative champion”  (You hear him, champion!  You conservative losers!)  He’s going to take on those hippie liberals in Washington, like Eric Cantor & John Boehner!!! (Wait, what???)  Oh here’s something different, he’s going to end Obamacare.  He’s going to create jobs, not because he’s a business man, but because he is getting rid of those filthy illegal immigrants (double conservative score!).  Balance the budget?  You betcha!  Christian values under attack?  You bet your bible they are!   The conservative is strong in this one.

Blah!!!  What freakin’ difference does it make?  That’s Alabama politics right now.  I just don’t have the will nor see the reason to bother.  I have no reason to think that any of these candidates can’t “represent me” being the most conservative conservative to have ever conservative.   They don’t really need my vote to do that.

June 4th Update:

So there’s going to be a run-off between Paul DeMarco and Gary Palmer.  Hmm, didn’t mention Gary Palmer.  Let’s see:

Gary Palmer

Gary is “everything conservatives need” according to National Review.  Guess what?  He’s going to end Obamacare!  He is going to get rid of those darn regulations that prevent economic growth (jobs!).  Yes, he is going to balance the budget.  He probably does need to get a few more Christian mentions on his website, I can find only a reference to God in regards to being pro-life.  Whew!  I was worried there might be an actual difference in opinion.  Thank goodness that in a race of 8 hardcore conservatives, it is going to come down to 2 hardcore conservatives!  (Maybe the election will swing on whether or not Christian values are under attack?)

 

 

 

A study was just released found that climate change is not only going to happen, it is in fact HAS happened and is now ongoing.  The White House is trying to use this report to create a sense of urgency so maybe we start to take some sort of action.   But it’s not going to work.  You can have all the scientists and all the scientific studies in the world, but anything short of the world literally catching on fire is not going to spur any action (and even then, we may then only start to seriously discuss taking action, not take any actual action).

Meh.  Rain will probably put it out eventually.

Meh. Rain will probably put it out eventually.

The thing that got me thinking about this was bridges.  You may say, bridges?  What does that have to do with anything?  Well, this country just happens to have a bridge problem.  Nearly 25% of this country’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.  And 30% of this country’s bridges have exceeded their 50-year designed lifespan.  Heck, an interstate bridge in Minnesota just flat-out collapsed in 2007, which would seem to prove the point that our bridges need a little work.  Now I have never heard of a “bridge denier”, and I don’t think anybody really questions the numbers nor the situation.  And yet we have done little to improve the situation.  If we won’t do anything to fix something that is pretty much non-controversial, what chance does a cause that actually do have political activists fighting against it have?

What causes us to take action?  A truly sudden cataclysmic event, preferably televised, seems to do the trick.  But it has to be huge.  Or maybe just needs to happen a lot in a short period of time.  But a single bridge collapse was not enough to address our bridges.  A shooting of 20 second graders did nothing for gun control.  I often wonder what would have happened if the events of 9/11 wasn’t pretty much on live television.

The other thing that causes action is things that directly impact the influential in the here and now.  Unlike the huge cataclysmic events, if it affects the right people, these things can be nothing more than minor inconveniences.  When the government shutdown started delaying airline flights for people, including the media and politicians, it was amazing how a government who before couldn’t seem to agree on anything could suddenly come together and get THAT fixed!  The poor?  Hunger?  Health care?  Pfft, whatever.  But by golly I ain’t waiting for a plane!

But climate change, while will eventually have huge and devastating impacts, is not going to be sudden and will be hard to televise.  It’s going to be a slow burn.  And while it will not discriminate, it’s probably never going to have that ‘man, this is really effecting ME TODAY, we better do something!’ aspect to it.

Neil Tyson Degrasse recently said in reference to our inaction toward climate change, “The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming.  What’s our excuse?”  While what I offer are not excuses (or at least they are lousy ones), I just don’t see this going down any other way.  Prove me wrong, world.  Prove me wrong.