Thursday, December 20, 2012

Resurrecting the Republican Climate blog

Hi. Now that the election is over, I plan to gradually resurrect this blog. It will deal with long-term issues in which the Republican Party, despite its loss in the recent elections, continues to obstruct.

Quietly, the Republicans are giving in on some ground. For example, last September, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Office issued a report that found no correlation between the state of the national economy and taxes on the rich. Because this conclusion, based on data, contradicted a key Republican talking point, the Republican leadership of the House squelched the report. Last week, House Democrats posted the report, which Republicans have now stopped trying to suppress.

At this writing, the Republicans continue to head us toward the "fiscal cliff" by insisting that rich people pay almost no additional taxes, and they continue to insist on ideologically-based budget cuts rather than cuts that will actually solve any problems.

And probably most of you heard about how Senator McConnell filibustered his own bill in the Senate, during the fiscal cliff discussions. Apparently, the fiscal cliff does not matter to the leadership of the Republican Party. They are just playing games.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Republican Party Is Going To Stop Loving Us

For many years, we have all known that the Republican Party is the party of love. They say only nice things about people so that everyone will love them. They gladly accept the label “bleeding hearts” for themselves because their hearts flow out with love toward not just the middle class and poor, such as the victims of bank robo-signing, but even toward the world of nature, you know, birds and stuff. They embrace the Bleeding Heart ideal because this term refers to the bleeding heart of Jesus Christ.

Nowhere has Republican love been more obvious than in the pronouncements of commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly. For years, liberal writers such as myself have referred to them as “bloviators,” but we have been so wrong. Every word that has come from Rush Limbaugh’s mouth has been loving and nourishing, each an attempt to help his listeners by giving them truly constructive advice. Even Jesus himself would have a hard time matching the love that Republicans have showered upon their listeners. Where have you ever seen a more loving person than Donald Trump? When the Religious Right Republican commentators make it abundantly clear that everyone who disagrees with them in even the most minor detail is a Satan-possessed terrorist God-hater, this is only because they care about us and wish for us to be saved from hell by worshiping them. Pat Robertson, who pours his words of love from Trinity Broadcasting Network, is the ultimate Christian superman, and he consistently proclaims the Gospel of Republicanism.

So great has been their love that the Republican Religious Right fully deserves every last penny of their wealth. Paul and Jan Crouch, owners of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have used millions of dollars of money sent by their worshipers to purchase numerous lavish mansions, a luxury jet, and then even have a $100,000 motor home for their dogs. Surely their mansions and the comfort of their dogs is more important than a few thousand children in Bangladesh—isn’t this what Jesus would have said?

But all of that is about to change. At the Republican convention, Governor Chris Christie said (as quoted by Fox News), “‘I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed by our desire to be loved.’ Christie said leaders chronically opt to do what is popular, ‘but tonight I say enough. Tonight, we’re gonna choose respect over love.’”

So the Republican Party is now going to command the kind of respect that one receives in the absence of love. What kind of respect could this be? It cannot be the respect that comes from doing a good job for your customers, since that is a form of love. Certainly it is not the kind of respect that comes from neighbors helping one another after a hurricane, such as the one that almost hit the Republican Convention. Both of those are forms of altruism, which Mitt Romney specifically rejected a couple of weeks before Christie’s Sermon on the Mound. It must be the kind of respect that comes from force and intimidation. The kind of respect that a schoolyard bully receives from the other kids whose faces have been beaten into the dirt. Limbaugh called student Sandra Fluke a slut. (Maybe I should call one of my unwed female mother students a slut, and see how long my tenure would protect me.) That, my friends, is love-speech. I wonder what respect-speech would look like.

And before you know it, the whole country will be dominated by the vast canopy of Republican respect. I am looking forward eagerly to all of us non-Republicans, and even moderate Republicans, being called a slut or a terrorist or a communist or a servant of Satan. I can hardly wait to live in this Republican utopia.

If this essay has been a blessing to your hearts, dear brethren, please send the link to others who will be similarly uplifted.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New YouTube channel

There is a new YouTube channel: Check it out for incisive political humor.

Republican Climate of Divisiveness, Part One. It’s Easy to Secede

I wrote previously about how Republicans have created a climate of hostility and, according to some Republicans, the hostility is great enough to warrant a civil war. We can only hope that these Republicans remain a minority within their Party.

In 1861, Confederate hostility was strong enough that it led to secession. Could this happen again?

Despite some of the claims made by people such as Judge Head and Governor Perry, it is unlikely that states like Texas will actually try to secede. It is unlikely because the states are economically interconnected to an extent that would be considered unbelievable in 1861. But it remains possible, at least in the long run.

But it would be surprisingly easy for Texas to secede from the Union. First, the agreement by which Texas entered the Union contains a clause that permits them to secede. No other state has such a clause.

Second, while, like any state, Texas is tightly interconnected with the national economy, they do have their own largely separate power grid, and an oil industry that would continue to provide an income to them. And they have lots of seaports. Aircraft and big oil ships could come and go without crossing over any other states. Right now, Texas demands to receive oil from the Keystone Pipeline that would be built at federal expense and cross several other states; the non-Texas states would demand payment for that oil if Texas seceded. And Texas is demanding free access to Oklahoma water, citing the commerce clause of the Constitution. If they were not a state, they could not receive this water, at least without paying dearly for it. Nevertheless, it would be a lot easier for Texas to secede than, say, Oklahoma.

How would they be able to secede? To get the process started, all they would have to do is to declare themselves to be an independent far-right conservative nation. The rest would follow from this. There would be a mass exodus of moderates and liberals (there are apparently quite a few in Austin), and they would have to all sell their land at once. Land prices would fall, allowing the conservatives to buy up a lot of liberal land cheaply. This would make the conservatives even richer than they are now. With their new influx of money, they could buy lots of arms and equipment on the open free market. They would have a military system rather quickly. Within a decade or so there would be an independent, fortified Republic of Texas.

Texas would be unlikely to secede if the federal government is conservative. If the federal government is run by Democrats, they would be unlikely to declare war on Texas the way the USA declared war on the CSA in 1861. Texas would be unlikely to suffer the devastation that the South experienced in 1865. There would be military engagements, probably along the border as both countries, USA and ROT, tried to control border crossings.

Conservative Texans consider themselves Americans, but it might be surprisingly easy for them to change this view of themselves. If they become convinced that “American” is a term that includes those whom they brand as “liberals,” they might next become convinced that this inclusive term is intolerable.

Many or most Republicans enjoy being divisive. For them, at least in Texas, secession might be an obtainable goal. Landlocked conservative states such as Oklahoma or Arkansas would find it more difficult—unless, of course, they joined with Texas.

The main thing is that many Republicans no longer consider themselves fellow citizens with those whom they brand as liberals. This is the single most important factor that could lead to secession and, perhaps, to a civil war as well. It is unlikely but possible.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Republican Climate of Intimidation, Part One. A Sick Joke.

When Bill Clinton was president, Republicans disliked him strongly enough that they finally impeached him. But this was nothing like the raw fury and insult that they throw against Barack Obama, even though Obama is less liberal than Clinton was. The Republicans have kept up a constant barrage of name-calling against Obama. They call him a socialist, even though he is much less so than Clinton was. Clinton’s health care plan was a big quasi-socialist bureaucracy. Not so Obama’s. Why do they hate Obama more than they hated Clinton?

I suspect it has something to do with race. I am not saying all, or most, Republicans are racist. But I draw this tentative conclusion based on a consideration of some of the things Obama’s attackers say about him. The Tea Partiers, for a long time, kept up a constant stream of attacks on Obama’s citizenship, even after he released his birth certificate. Today, most Republicans have dropped the issue as a matter of fact. But they keep it alive by joking about it, thus contributing to a climate of intimidation without having to actually prove their point. They use humor as a back door to slip in false claims. Now, political humor has a long tradition, and I engage in it myself (watch here for the upcoming announcement of my new YouTube political humor channel). The problem is that political humor should be used, as I hope I use it, to alert people to problems, rather than to inject destructive and false misinformation into public discourse.

Just yesterday (August 24), Mitt Romney was in Michigan and said, “I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

A Romney aide said that Romney was not questioning Obama’s American citizenship. He was just joking, apparently. But what kind of joke is it?

Romney is from Michigan, which is right next to Canada. How can you tell, just by looking, that Romney is not a frostback undocumented Canadian? Because he is white, no one is really concerned about his citizenship. But people of color often have their citizenship questioned. Despite the attacks on Obama, this does not often happen to black people. But in Arizona it is legal to challenge the citizenship of anyone who looks like a Mexican. This has to include Native Americans, since many Mexicans have a high quantum of Native American genes (Nahuatl, Zapotec, etc.). What would a Native American say, in Arizona, if asked to show his green card? Would he say, “My ancestors came here 14,000 years ago and you are asking me to show you my green card?” Citizenship status is not indicated on driver’s licenses or credit cards or anything else that people usually carry with them. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who enthusiastically investigates the citizenship status of all people who look Mexican, announced in July that his investigators found evidence to prove Obama was not an American citizen. Even though no taxpayer money was apparently used in this investigation, one wonders what authority Maricopa County has over the determination of the president’s citizenship. They do not, and the only reason for it is to contribute to a climate of intimidation. It is no longer just fringe Tea Partiers who do this; Romney has joined the circus. Romney looks like an American; Obama and Hispanics and Native Americans do not, from a viewpoint that used to be fringe within the Republican Party but is becoming more mainstream.

Many Native Americans did not have United States citizenship until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. This was a long time after freed slaves obtained the right of citizenship. Even then some states prevented the implementation of this law. The last state to grant Native American citizenship was Utah, in 1956. Before 1924, Native Americans could become citizens of the USA only by giving up tribal affiliation, or joining the armed forces, or assimilating in other ways. My grandfather, who is listed on the Cherokee citizen rolls of the early twentieth century, was extremely proud to have the right to vote. Back then, it was necessary to pay a poll tax in order to vote. He could not, so he would work on road crew for free for a couple of days in election years. He was so proud of his right to vote that he proclaimed that he would not tell anyone, even his family, whom he had voted for, because he rejoiced in the right to a secret ballot. Nobody in our family now remembers whether or not he was born an American citizen, as some Cherokees were. I remember my Mom telling me this story, and as a result I recognize that the right to vote is a precious gift rather than a right to simply take for granted.

Today all Americans, of whatever ethnicity, have full citizenship rights. But some Americans have to keep proving over and over that they really are Americans. How many times does Obama have to keep proving his American citizenship before Republicans will quit attacking him, if only in the form of jokes? And when will a law enforcement official ask Mitt Romney to prove his American citizenship?

If you consider the essays at this blog to be valuable and interesting, please forward the link to people you know who could benefit from them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Republican Climate of Hostility, Part 1. A New Civil War?

In Texas, a Lubbock County judge, Tom Head, said that, if Obama is re-elected, he is “going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N. Okay, what’s going to happen when that happens? I’m thinking worst case scenario here. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. We’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations. We’re talking Lexington-Concord take up arms and get rid of the guy…[Obama’s] “going to send in U.N. troops, with the little blue beanies. I don’t want them in Lubbock County, so I’m going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say ‘You’re not coming in here.’ And the sheriff, I’ve already asked him, I said ‘You gonna back me?’ he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll back you.’

There. That’s the quote. You’ve all heard it. I took the quote right from the Texas Tribune.

It is not unusual for people to be upset when a candidate from the other party wins the presidency. Republicans were upset when Bill Clinton won, twice. Democrats were upset when George W. Bush won, twice. But what is different this time is that some Republicans—unfortunately, the ones who seem to have the most influence in the party, the right-wing activists, still known as Tea Partiers—actually hate Barack Obama. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled out “You lie!” during one of Obama’s State of the Union messages. And now we have a Republican leader speculating that civil war may be necessary. What we have here is the Republican Party ready to go to war, perhaps not just rhetorically, against the Democrats. I do not know why Republicans merely disliked Clinton (who remains more left-leaning than Obama) yet they openly hate Obama. The only thing I can think of is that Obama is black. Or maybe it is because the hate-frothing right wing of the Republican Party, which has always been there, has now gotten a controlling interest in their party.

I do not think this is merely a random nut case who can be forgotten. I fear that the civil war that some Republicans would like to see might just actually happen, even if only on a local scale. First, the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has already pointed out that when Texas joined the Union, it retained the right to secede. Rick Perry represents the Texas Republican viewpoint; he is no isolated extremist. Perry’s remark sounded like civil war talk. Judge Head’s remarks sound even more like civil war talk. And remember that these Republican extremists have guns. Lots and lots of them.

Maybe the Republicans are merely saying hateful things that they do not actually plan to do. Let us hope that it is merely hot air. But it is, at the very least, an attempt to intensify the climate of hostility. And it is not impossible that some of them may try to start a new Civil War. The poisoned political discourse in America in 2012 is not all that different from the poisoned discourse of, say, 1855.

Remember that John Sununu said recently that President Obama should learn how to be an American. He later downplayed his remarks, but only after he discovered that some of his fellow Republicans disapproved. Sununu was defining “American” to be the same as “Republican.” The Constitution defines who is an American and who is not. But, apparently according to Sununu, Republican Party membership defines American citizenship. This, too, is civil war talk. So it is not just Judge Head. It is Rick Perry and John Sununu.

The Republicans are creating a sea of hostility in which swim millions of angry people with itchy trigger fingers and lots of triggers.

If you are a Republican and embarrassed of Judge Head, get on the phone or email to your party and tell them to quit fostering a climate of hostility.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It’s Official: Republicans Reject Altruism

I now bring you late-breaking news about altruism. (By late-breaking I mean less than a week old. I usually get month or year old news to you.)

President Barack Obama made a statement that sounds like a completely non-controversial, common sense description of altruism as it plays out in our communities and in our nation. Here is the original quote. Obama was talking to small business owners: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

I cannot imagine that anyone would object to this. Businesses do not teach their employees how to read and write and add and subtract. Some businesses build their own private roads, but those roads connect to highways that are built by counties, states, and the federal government. If you’ve got a business, you did not build the schools and roads. (I plan to operate a small business myself soon, so I can say soon that Obama’s statement reflects the common sense beliefs of a small business owner.) Businesses and families can thrive only within stable communities, bound together by altruism, which is facilitated by reasonable regulations and reasonable taxes.

Altruism, as I have written in my books and other blogs, is doing well by doing good. One animal (such as a human) does good things to and for another animal of the same species, and both of the animals prosper as a result. There are innumerable examples of altruism, confirmed by observation and (thanks to people like Martin Nowak) mathematics. It is one of the clearest components of evolutionary theory. And it is intuitively obvious to all of us.

Mitt Romney, however, had to attack Barack Obama for this statement. Obama clarified that he meant that if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build the schools, roads, and bridges. On August 13, Romney attacked even more vigorously, saying that this context was even worse than the original statement. Perhaps Romney, and therefore the mainstream of the Republican Party, envision a future in which America consists of individuals who do not help one another out but just fight and struggle with one another for dominance. Gated communities that are entirely self-contained? I cannot believe that Republicans are stupid enough to believe this. I suspect that Romney simply attacks anything Obama says without even thinking about it. If Obama said the sky is blue, Romney would say that this is Obama’s Democratic bias, and that the sky is really Republican red. Long ago John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself,” and until now pretty much everyone accepted this as true. Welcome to the Republican vision of what America should be like. Or not; as I said, I think Mitt spoke without thinking.

Mitt Romney is not the only one to speak without thinking. When Joe Biden said, this week, that the Republicans want to put people (he was speaking to a largely black audience) back in chains, he easily won the Stupidest Statement Award. Where did Obama find this clown anyway? Biden is the same one who emailed all of Obama’s supporters and said that if Obama did not win the election it was their fault for not giving more money. As one of those followers, I emailed my response: that this was an offensive statement. But while Joe Biden is destroying altruism by clownish incompetence, it appears that Republicans are destroying it deliberately.

If Mitt Romney makes a big deal about attacking Obama on the issue (previously, non-issue) of altruism, I can only wonder if he has any ideas of his own. Perhaps American businesses can prosper by investing their money in overseas banks the way he does? If Romney makes the rich richer, will this automatically lift up the middle class? The rich have been getting richer, and the middle class has been getting poorer (especially by debt burden). Raising up the rich has not raised up the middle class in recent years, and there is no reason to expect that it would in the future.

This is just one more example of Republicans taking on what should be a non-partisan topic—something confirmed by science—and attacking it. Evolution, global warming, stem cells, and now altruism. As a biology instructor, what can I do? Do I need to ask the Republican Party whether carbon atoms really exist before I teach about molecular structure? The Bible does not, after all, say that carbon atoms exist. I can only hope that this example is extreme; but I would never have guessed that altruism would be treated as a dangerous theory either.

Good luck to all of you altruists.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome to the Republican Climate!

Welcome to the Republican Climate! The Republican Party has created a climate of hostility, intimidation, misinformation, and hypocrisy. The entries in this blog will document many examples in which the Republican Party has poisoned the social world in which we live. In addition, they have totally prevented any meaningful action from being taken on controlling climate change, that is, the physical climate.

I could also welcome you by saying, Welcome to the Republican Utopia! They had eight years of George W. Bush presidency to create the kind of country they wanted, almost without opposition for the first six of those years. During that time, they created the negative climate that I will describe in these blog entries. Today, however, the Republican Party wants you to forget that there ever was a Bush-Cheney Administration that used false information to start a war that put us a trillion dollars further in debt. Now they want us to think that they are the party of spending money carefully rather than starting wars just for the hell of it. They want us to think that, in 2009, the Republican Party was totally reborn and has no history. But all of the significant aspects of the Republican Climate of the Bush Administration continue. I will document those ongoing abuses, with only historical references to Bush-Cheney.

You want to know what a Republican utopia would look like? It would be a world in which everybody has to carry guns to protect themselves from everyone else, in which the middle class and poor live in debt and pollution while the very rich live in safe, walled compounds with private guards and pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us. The very rich, who will be almost the sole beneficiaries of Republican policy, have most of their money in overseas accounts and, in the event that the economy of America (or any other country) should collapse, they will still be rich. They have nothing to lose if America collapses from its contamination by the Republican Climate.

And they may very soon have a chance to make their utopian vision a reality.

The Republican Climate has a veneer of Christianity, but underneath that veneer we will discover that the Republican Party actually hates everything that Jesus said and did.

Moreover, I do not wish to present the Democratic Party as being a bastion of goodness. If your comments are critical of the Democratic Party, I may often agree with them. I am disappointed with them, but alarmed by the Republicans. In our political system, it is a choice between incompetent mules and destructive, hate-filled elephants. God spare us. I choose incompetence over destructiveness.

I know, furthermore, that there are many individually nice Republicans. Millions, I suspect. I know a few. But these reasonable Republicans have allowed the hate-mongers to take over their party.

The Republican Party did not used to be this way. This is a point made by former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma. He finds the Republican Party of today almost unrecognizable in comparison to the Republican Party of earlier decades. I encourage you to read Mickey Edwards's writings for The Atlantic, and his new book The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans.