Archive for October, 2014

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.