Tuesday, November 30, 2004

My hoe, my mule, my college debt

I've found myself working for Wal-Mart lately, as if by accident.

I man the cash register, I push carts indoors from the cold, I show people where things are, I put things away that said people picked up but didn't really want, and I straighten up aisles and aisles of mussed-up items from China. I receive a paycheck every two weeks for my effort. Life is good.

I'm not sure how I got started on this anymore. I'm not sure I even care. But working for Wal-Mart has taught me one thing. The world is divided into two kinds of people: dicks and not-so-much dicks. I happen to be a not-so-much dick, so I mostly get along with other not-so-much dicks. Then there are the dicks, whom I despise, yet am still very polite to, because I am the best there is at what I do. Damn straight.

For the most part, the not-so-much dicks, or NSMDs, are locals who understand that I have a crappy job, and who either have crappy jobs themselves, or have had them in the past. And while they are filthy rich today, they remember such a time as they had toiled, selling their labor to the highest bidder. Such as it is, I am not one of them. I toil currently. And how.

Wal-Mart is supposed to destroy small town life. Whoops. Someone forgot to mention that most of the time it doesn't. While downtown might have been the old watering-hole in some towns, now it sits geographically near and around the proximity of Wal-Mart. Is this a good thing? Specifically? No. Downtowns have more character and charm than large blue warehouses with hundreds of security cameras placed strategically throughout "in order to keep prices low for you, the customer." But in general? Yes, Wal-Mart can be a good thing for small towns. Lack of competition can make businesses lazy. Competition can make them sharp. In my town, of approximately 6,000 residents, there are two hardware stores, a paint store, a Home Depot (that no one figured would make it), two grocery stores, two mexican markets, and a Walgreens. Since our Wal-Mart was upgraded to a Super Wal-Mart (a traditional Wal-Mart with a grocery store for the uninitiated), not one of those stores has shut its doors. (In fact, one of the mexican markets opened in the time since.)

Competition makes businesses sharp. And competition breeds excellence.

The local paint store has more choices and better customer service than Home Depot, and blows Wal-Mart's paint aisle out of the water. By keeping prices relatively competitive, they stay afloat. When we painted our house, we bought local. Not because of their prices, but because they had the colors I had in my head. No one else did. They compete -- and customers win.

The local grocery stores aren't so local. They are chain stores, though not from large ones. In order to survive, they offer things Wal-Mart doesn't. They're prices are a bit higher, especially on things like cereal and fresh meat. But they have so many items that Wal-Mart only dreams of carrying, like regional salsas or loads of organic foods. For these reasons, I, the ever-loyal Wal-Mart employee, shop at one of these grocers in particular. As long as I don't get spit in the face or sold poison-Swiss cheese, I am fiercely loyal.

I never go to Walgreens. Not because I hate it or anything. Mostly because I can't figure out why it's there. It's awful bright. And I don't take drugs. So I avoid even mentioning it.

Okay, and here's the but. (You knew it was coming.) But I live in a tourist town. That's right. So even though my town is some 6,000 strong, it can double on some weekends, and swell to triple during the summer. We're right off of highway 12, which runs from Detroit to somewhere just short of the Pacific Ocean. So we have that key Motown-to-Vancouver road trip demographic. In our town, Wal-Mart makes sense. And all I can really speak for is our town.

But to be honest, even though the not-so-much-dicks are the nice type people, the dicks are the ones who fund our local economy, and make it possible for me to push carts and take people's money, while other stores can stand side-by-side, also pushing carts and taking people's money. (To be fair, not all out-of-towners are dicks. Some are NSMDs, but the vast majority of dicks are from out of town, so while it can be difficult to peg the NSMD as townies or tourists, the dicks you can assume are from the greater Chicago-land area. Those people who've forgotten what it was to toil-tirelessly for that much-needed paycheck, and who never experienced it in the first place.)

In short, I work for Wal-Mart to learn solidarity, to be blue-collar, to experience the damning effects of "the man," to understand why more than a few people stood up for their rights as workers last century, either by joining a union or a violent revolution. If theology is faith-seeking-understanding, then being a stooge for corporate America is dry-history seeking life-giving-praxis. Or maybe it's just the $6.70 an hour. You be the judge.

But please oh please, don't be the dick. There are more than enough of those. Be a NSMD, wherever you shop, and remember that we at Wal-Mart work on your behalf, forcing manufacturers to move plants to China in order to bring you that Bratz doll or DVD player for 1/10 the price were it made in America. Come on, do you really think we'd all be watching digital Spider-Man 2 on widescreen with Dolby DTS had our DVD player cost us $500? (And that being the cheap version that breaks after a year.)

Wal-Mart exists because people want it to exist. They like cheap shampoo and even cheaper cereal. And they sure as hell like to buy crap electronics for insanely low prices. You want to stop the march of Wal-Mart? Educate people about how they got that Bratz doll for $10. Tell them about how China abuses their workers, persecutes their religious citizens, and swallows up whole sovereign nations like Tibet without raising an eyebrow from the near-useless United Nations. Don't yell at the cart-pushers. They're likely to agree with you. And secretly call you a dick behind your back once you get in your gas-guzzling, Arab oil dependent, yellow ribbon bearing SUV.

You heard that right, dick.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

liberty, leaking from the ears

During the battle for Fallujah, an Iraqi journalist named Abdul-Qader Saadi stayed behind in order to report events from the war in his home town. I can't even begin to tell you his story. After the initial fighting, Saadi turned himself over to American and Iraqi forces during the offensive. Then, even though he was a civilian and a journalist, he was treated like a something less than human. In the common vernacular: he was shat upon. Read this. Read his story. Please.

There is only one way for American soldiers (or any soldiers for that matter) to function physically and mentally during a war in which they are taking human life -- and that is to view the enemy as something less than human. If you've seen films like Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket you'll understand what I'm talking about (if you've lived those stories, you'll know more than I could ever imagine). It's no wonder Abdul-Qader Saadi was treated like a wild animal; in the minds of these soldiers, he was one.

At the same time in Cuba, some 550 prisoners in the Bush Administration's "war on terror" are still being held without the legal protection of an attorney present during their military trials. Hundreds still have absolutely no knowledge why the U.S. government has detained them for over three years now. Those who have faced the tribunal are only read unclassified portions of the charges brought against them.

Okay, I know we're at war. And I know that some, maybe most, of these men are terrorists, but we are beginning to apply a very utilitarian approach to this "war on terror." The safety of the many has tended to come at the cost of the rights of the few (and by few, I mean Muslims). Our country was founded on a belief that a person's liberty was something that could never be taken away. It could be limited in certain ways, but there was never a situation that demanded he gave up everything for the "greater good." This is the reason we rid ourselves of the military draft. This is the reason for so much popular opposition to affirmative action. This is the reason America has been so staunchly in favor of private property and a free market. Socialism has the potential to be a choice made by the American public, but according to our constitution, it can never be forced upon us in order to bring the maximum happiness to the greatest number of people. If these men were guilty of something, things might be different. But they've been held for over 36 months without even being charged! How can they argue their cases when they don't even know the charges leveled against them?

You're right, they can't.

Gauntanamo Bay, our own private Siberian concentration camp, spits in the face of natural law and the essential worth of the human being. Of all the things to take away from Stalin's Soviet Russia, we pick this? What's happening? What's going on? This is America?

Wait, I fucking mean it, this is America?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

House of Cards

Meanwhile on the Hill, two wonderfully block-headed congressmen have blocked a bill that would have overhauled the way our country gathered and interpreted intelligence, especially in the way it combats terrorists. USA Today, which doesn't lambast too often, went after the toolbags with claws out. If these guys can get the McPaper riled up, something is definitely amiss. The legislation expires when this congress expires, so the whole process would have to start over if it doesn't pass before then. Let's hope the president dangles their jobs over the fire (to take a line from Josh Lyman) and gets them to fall in line. I mean, if the Republicans can scare the crap out of Arlen Specter....Is a safer America too much to ask from a lame-duck Congress?

Oh, and by the by. Where's the social conservative outcry against these "rogue" Republicans? Apparently the Dobsonites care more about conservative judges than about another terrorist attack. Thanks for the back-up guys.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Phone Calls From Jesus

Conclusion - killing poverty dead

To wrap things up, poverty should be of paramount importance to us because it is of paramount importance to God. There are literally hundreds of solutions to fight poverty on a local, regional, national and international level. In order to get the ball rolling, we first have to realize our responsibility to those less fortunate than ourselves, and reject our Western culture’s ignorance of its current state of affairs.

We also need to make the fight against poverty the chief domestic battle in the American mindset. While drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, dead-beat dads, abortion, racism and the failure of our public schools are all important problems, I truly believe that they could all be alleviated in a concentrated effort to eliminate or reduce poverty in America. The best way to do that is to encourage as much as possible new and creative ways to fight poverty in our local communities.

It should also be noted that poverty in the States is nothing like poverty in the international community. War torn areas in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Palestine struggle in ways that we here in America can only begin to comprehend. Even whole continents, such as Africa and South America, still struggling to make a peaceful transition from colonialism to democracy, have huge numbers of people living in the worst of conditions. In the process, revolution and civil war have decimated their economies in what can only be likened to a decades long Great Depression of their very own. There are no easy answers; there is only action.

Maybe we can’t win the war against poverty. But we can win battles in a global fight to make sure real people have the basics needed for survival, and maybe even personal fulfillment. In doing so, the Church can once again prove that individuals have incredible worth – even if it’s just one local church a time, impacting one individual at a time.

This is our calling. Damned lies and statistics need to be discarded, and replaced by real people, loving others, as Christ loved the Church.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Poverty, meet your Nemesis

Part Four - New Solutions to Old Problems

Tracy Smallwood makes model trucks and cars from corndog sticks and paint. He sells them at craft bazaars to help out needy kids and at-risk youth. He realizes that the root cause of crime in our country is poverty. He knows this because he is a prison inmate.

“People don’t know the good that people do in prison,” says Smallwood. “There are people that belong in prison, but there are people doing good.” His fellow inmates at the Kentucky State Penitentiary agree.

Leo Spurling, like the rest of the inmates at Kentucky’s lone maximum security prison, doesn’t have to work while in prison, but he does to raise money to keep people out of prison. “Violence, drugs, you name it; I was in it. I was as bad as a human being could get. I gave up on life because I didn’t have hope. I thought my life was a waste because I didn’t realize my potential.”

Spurling decided to change things, and with the help of a prison chaplain, organized the Children’s Fund Project. All the funds come from the inmates themselves. They make and sell arts and crafts, collect donations from other inmates, and dig through the prison’s garbage for aluminum to sell for roughly 40 cents a pound.

One day with sifting through the day’s garbage an inmate walked by Spurling and said, “That’s got to be humiliating.” Spurling could only reply, “Why? We’re doing it for the kids, man. How can that be humiliating?”

Innovation is probably one of the most important strategies we can use to combat poverty. It can come from anywhere, but usually starts at the grassroots level. By the time it reaches the public policy stage, it’s nearly obsolete because dozens of newer more efficient ways have been created. The Children’s Fund Project raised $4,000 last Christmas for local charities that work with youth. While that might not seem like an overwhelming number, just imagine if every prison around the country did the same. And that each community that ran each prison matched that amount. And every state matched that new amount. You get the idea.

The federal government would do well to encourage non-profit organizations to try new ways to combat poverty by reaching into the old pork-barrel and pouring funds into new federal grants. (You hear that Bush? Try vetoing a special interest spending bill one these days.)

And businesses could be further encouraged to fight poverty in their own communities through tax breaks or other financial incentives. A stronger economy in the local community bolsters businesses in a variety of ways. Lower poverty rates mean a greater number of consumers looking to spend their capital. Also, increased consumption rates have the potential to turn previous run-down communities into attractive, magnet neighborhoods. This is how we convince disciples of Adam Smith to join the fray; by proving that it is in their best interest to help eradicate poverty.

My point is not to come up with innovative ways right this instance, and that shouldn’t be the goal of the federal government either. Instead, it should encourage its citizens as often as possible to come up with new solutions to the old problem of poverty. If we tightened the purse strings, and made sure tax money went where it mattered, we'd be well on our way.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Trumping the Poor with Tax Cuts and War

Part Three - Something Worth Fighting For

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words during a period of America's history that nearly brought our nation to the brink of violent revolution. While President Lyndon Baines Johnson waged a domestic war on poverty, he was also beginning to wage a foreign war on communism in Vietnam. It wasn't economically sustainable to pursue both. And as Herbert Stein said, "If something is unsustainable, it tends to stop." Eventually, LBJ had to choose.

Statistics coming in right now put us in a similar situation. The national budget for 2003 increased defense spending by $42 billion while cutting domestic spending by $9 billion. Budget projections see a freeze in domestic spending for the year 2004. The tax cuts of three years ago are going to cost the government some $674 billion in revenue that could have been used to balance the budget and go to those who needed most. (Question: What did your $200 refund really accomplish? Sub-question: Could you have lived without it?)

Bush wants to make the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent. And with the support his party received on Nov 2, it seems as if he will have little opposition. My problem is not with Bush's tax cuts per se, though you'll note that I've said on several occasions how I feel they benefit the wealthiest of Americans. But now's not the time to get off topic. Now's the time to get Biblical.

In the book of Ezekiel, God declares that the guilt of Sodom was not primarily due to sexual sin, but to ignorance of their social responsibilities. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy (16:49).” In other words, God didn't destroy Sodom because of rampant homosexuality. God destroyed this "wicked" city because she would not share the abundance of her wealth with the poor and needy. This is more than just a little, bit eerie. This is prophetic. This hits close to home. And this is Biblical.

Where do our priorities lie as the body of Christ or as a nation where lassiez-faire liberty is our most cherished of rights? How can we best use the resources we have been blessed with to bless those who have a greater need? If freedom is worth fighting for abroad, isn’t freedom worth fighting for here at home as well?

When we go down the crapper as a nation, don't point the righteous finger of indignation at gay marriage. Take a page from Ezekiel, and look at our country's refusal to take care of our brothers and sisters in need. It's not too late to stop listening to our Protestant popes and to start actually reading our Bibles.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Poverty and Moral Values

Part Two - The Mythology of Poverty

“The poor you will always have with you.” These words of Christ in Mark 14 have been used by Christians and non-Christians alike to defend the status-quo of Western Civilization for 2000 years. If the poor are always going to be around, what's the use in trying?

The "use" lies in following the very commandments of Christ, who told his followers, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)." Caring for one another, especially those who need it most, is proof to the world that we are disciples of Christ. When we take care of the hungry, the thirsty, the needy, the naked, and the sick, we are taking care of God himself (Matt. 25:31-46). In a nation where moral values trump all at the polls, fighting poverty should be a chief priority for Christians of any stripe.

Yet the mythology of poverty tells us that because the poor will always be with us, eradicating poverty should not be one of the primary goals of the community (whether that be the community of the church or of the state). This myth has become so powerful that it has reached outside of the church to those who have little knowledge of who Jesus Christ was. Poverty has become one of the givens of Western, commercial, industrialized culture.

But just because poverty will always exist, that does not give us an excuse to ignore it. That was never what Christ meant. He did everything but ignore poverty. He grew up in it. He lived it. His closest followers were fishers and farmers who wandered the Palestinian countryside without a roof for their heads. The bulk of his ministry (when he wasn't criticizing the religious leaders of his day) was spent relieving the poor and oppressed of their situation. His kingdom, which he spoke of so much, was to be built upon the meek, the humble, and those with little political or economic clout.

We’ve lost that in our society today. The church has both political power and economic influence. But in losing our socio-economic meek[weak]ness we’ve gained something great as well – the power to lift those in need to a better level. We have the power, whether as the American church or as a Christian nation, to change the way things are . If we fail the hungry and sick, the poor and oppressed, the captive and widowed, we are not only failing to love, we are failing to care for God, when he needs it most.

And if we are failing on that front, what does that say about our "Christian" nation?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A turn of the rudder - thoughts on poverty

Part One - Short on diagnosis, Long on cure

Imagine going to sleep hungry, every night of your life. Imagine waking up without a purpose for the day. Imagine not showering, shaving, and heading out the door. Maybe you wander, hoping to find a bit of work or a bite to eat. Or maybe you just sit, because you’ve lost any will to work or eat. Imagine spending most of the day disconnected from the world around you. You might think of when you were young. Imagine living for sleep, living in your dreams. Imagine going to sleep hungry, every nigh of your life.

Poverty damages people -- real, living, breathing people. A constant state of poverty can degrade the nobility of being born with an innate sense of spiritual significance. Poverty rarely allows its victims to meet their physical needs, which leaves no time to devote to spiritual and emotional needs, and depletes them of any self-worth they might have had. This may be the most dangerous result of poverty – you lose importance. God – if he even exists at all – does not care. And people, who you can actually see, don't even seem to notice.

There is no easy seven-step method to combating poverty. What works in some places may not work in others. What fails with some people may succeed with others. Sometimes people need financial assistance. Sometimes they need an opportunity. Sometimes they just need someone to care.

Leviathan state programs can't work because they impose national solutions to regional problems. On the other hand, some communities are failing to take compassionate action on behalf of those citizens who desperately need it. I, simple and inexperienced, see three items that need to be discussed concerning our brothers and sisters in need. They are not programs, but rather new ways of thinking. They are not solutions, because poverty might be a problem we never solve in a scientific sense. But they might (emphasis on might) invite a precious few to view the poor and their plight from a new perspective.

Over the next few days, I'll take a look at the pervasive mythology of poverty; how we de-emphasize the fight to correct poverty in America; and creative means to combat old problems. Maybe these things will not make a jot of difference. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic. Maybe. But if you know me, you know that doesn't happen too often. These ideas are pragmatic more than anything else, because I'm tired of theory, and I'm tired of hollow words. Let's just see where it takes us. And go from there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Arafat's Legacy

I remember a time during my Junior year considering J-term in Israel with Dr. Fairchild. He assured us that recent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis would only be a temporary thing, and that by Christmas it ought to be safe for us. January looked bright.

That was four years ago.

I haven't said a word about Yasir Arafat's recent passing. Mostly that's because I haven't had much nice to say. While I respected the vision Arafat had for his people, I've never had much respect for the man himself. He was, at times past, a terrorist. And even after he became a statesman, he failed to take a hard line against the terror during the current intifada. This isn't said to place the blame entirely on the Palestinians. Israel has fanned the flames of terror just fine by creating the perfect situation for it. But recently, they've come to understand their cause in the matter. Arafat had not.

Little by little Israelis have come to terms with the fact that land must be conceded in order to find peace with Palestine. Arafat would have none of that. If we are to see peace in the Gaza and the West Bank, it will be from a deal that neither side will be happy with -- a deal which has no clear "winner" -- a deal that extremists on both sides will denounce -- a deal that the U.S. and Europe will have a major hand in crafting.

(Thomas Friedman's recent piece in the NY Times says all this better than I ever could. If you have a few extra minutes, I would encourage you to read it.)

Yasir Arafat failed to find peace because he failed to make unpopular sacrifices that might have led to a deal. Let's hope his successor understands that bit of history, and isn't afraid to sacrifice parts of "the cause" to find peace for those who've fought for so long.

Monday, November 15, 2004

consider this

"Charlie! You fucking bitch! Let's work this out!"
--John Cusack in High Fidelity

I'm feeling a little jilted today. This weekend hasn't been kind.

First up was the death of ODB, which sounds corny that I should be mourning the death of a Wu-Tang member, but I really don't care at this point. Maybe he wasn't the best, and maybe he wasn't a household name, but he was good, and he should've had longer to prove it.

The next piece of news was even more trivial. A girl I used to know got married last June. In the end, not a big deal. But I was trying to find an email address for her last night, when I ran across this. I'm really tired of this marriage thing.

And then this morning, the news wires are reporting that Colin Powell plans to resign from the Bush cabinet. Powell was the only principal in Bush's inner sanctum that I actually liked. And just when Mideast talks concerning the West Bank seem like a reality, he gets pushed out the door (don't assume that resignations mean that these people are leaving voluntarily; it's usually more like Washington-speak for "we want you gone").

Like I said, just a little jilted.

Finally, I realize I haven't been posting much positivity lately, and I do apologize. But I haven't found much positive in the world as of late. Oh sure, there's always John Cusack and Jimmy Stewart movies, but you know what I mean. As a politically moderate conservative, and a fairly pissed-off evangelical, I seem to be in a double minority.

But I'll always be a white.anglo-saxon.protestant, so you know, at least I have that to fall back on.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

you own it, you better never let it go

I lose myself in the music, over on Midwest Mindset.

Get yur crazy on.

Parting Shot

AG John Ashcroft is criticizing federal judges for "second-guessing" the Bush Administration's treatment of federal detainees at Guantanamo. Ummm, Mr. Ashcroft? Do you realize that they're doing their constitutionally mandated job? Remember how we decided we didn't want another monarchy, so we created a system of checks and balances so that government officials would be held accountable?

Ashcroft also went on the say, "Courts are not equipped to execute the law. They are not accountable to the people." One problem: that's the whole point. The Founders didn't want everything in this country decided by majority rule. They wanted some of those checks and balances to remain independent of the will of the majority, in order that one branch of government could rule in favor of the minority (or whomever else) without fear of retribution from the voting populace.

This coming from our Attorney General, the chief defender of the U.S. Constitution.

How are we not all dead or in concentration camps? (Allow me just this one moment of facetiousness.) But for the grace of God...

...and don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

new wine skins

"...She found herself to be quite worried that something would jump out at her, so she began to whistle. She thought it might make it harder for things to jump out at her if she was whistling..."

from Coraline, by Nail Gaiman

On cold days, with battles in Fallujah, and rumors of civil war at home, maybe we should consider whistling the Gospel. It can't hurt, can it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

God Hates Fags

Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. [does he know what he is doing to his daughter? does he care? is this the love of christ, made manifest in this world? is this christ?] Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars. Hatred is never the proper response to hatred, it only worsens the scars.

I can only repeat this, over and over, because I barely believe it. And mostly, I don't want to. I just want to hate back.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Bring it on!

In one fell swoop, I think I just offended everyone I know. Man it feels good to be crazy again!

p.s. I really hate politicians.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Republican Jesus

Republican Jesus can’t get enough money. He remembers saying once, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” but he had his press secretary retract that statement long ago. Campaign promises don’t always stick once one hits Washington, and it’s easy to say those kinds of things when you’re poor yourself. But once Republican Jesus found capitalism, he never looked back. Tax free since 2003!

Republican Jesus can’t understand why minorities keep complaining. Why don’t they just put their nose to the grindstone and make their own fortune, just like his dad did? It can’t be all that hard to make money. Otherwise, there’s no way his dad would have ever gotten sooo rich.

While he doesn’t mention it too often, Republican Jesus doesn’t believe in taxes. He thinks they’re an imposition on his liberty. All those people in all those wars died for him to keep his money, so that the atheists wouldn’t force him to turn it all over to some totalitarian crazy. Man, those guys sure were great!

Republican Jesus is not stupid. He knows how to invest his money. It's not about what you know, it’s about who you know. And boy does he know the right people to help him get rid of all those stocks before they tank. Plus, he’s got the lawyers on hand to prove that he never really knew those people in the first place, and never knowingly received such information from them, and can’t recall why exactly he got rid of his stock right before it plunged, but he’s very sure there was no criminal wrong doing involved. Unless of course it was his accounting firm's fault, which he will testify against if it gets him off the hook. What a guy!

And jiminey-christmas does Republican Jesus hate gay people! Sure, he knows he’s supposed to love them, but it’s so hard when there’s all that hot man-on-man action all over the internet. He can’t believe they allow those people to teach at public schools, and he’s sure as hell glad that they got kicked out of the Boy Scouts. He knows that all homos are pedophiles, and want to get their hands all over little boys. And he definitely knows that if they start getting married, all the kids in America will automatically become homos and lesbians, and there will be gay sex everyone in America, even on PAX.

Republican Jesus realizes that he can’t get into office with just his rich, white friends; he needs poor white friends, too! So he had his advisers come up with a great way to convince people that tax cuts for his friends mean more money for all white people. It’s his supply side Gospel, and it’s sure a lot more fun than his first Gospel. Man, that one was a downer!

But even trickle down economics doesn’t convince everyone. Republican Jesus doesn’t even understand how it works, so how are the poor people supposed to?!? So Republican Jesus is sure to point out how middle class Americans come out like robbers after Republican tax cuts, and how all those farming families will never lose their farms when they’re parents die, and how it’s total communism to have to pay tax dividends! I mean, come on, taxing income twice? That’s be like having to pay income tax and sales tax! No one would be, oh wait....

Republican Jesus likes war. Once upon a time, Republican Jesus was an isolationist. Then, the godless, communist disciples of Karl Marx drew him out of his shell, and he really went after them all across the globe, even in total shit-holes like Vietnam! But ever since the Iron Curtain fell, he’s been a little frustrated. Enter 9/11! Now Republican Jesus can attack any country he wants and justify it on grounds of pre-emption. Just War indeed -- take your pick!

Republican Jesus is a little shell-shocked that his guys won the election. How did he manage to piss off everyone in the world and still get so many people to vote for him? Oh that’s right, the flaming homos and the dead babies! He knew that if he blamed the other guys for the flaming homos and the dead babies, all those red states would vote for him. Man is he smart!

Friday, November 05, 2004

So Much For The Afterglow

Following up on a previous post, I thought I'd mention Bush's initial outline for his second term. Big spending seems to be the theme, as it doesn't seem the White House has any concern to shrink the government in order to deal with growing deficits. The liberal buzz around the country right now is the thought that Bush would respond to his base first -- those religious conservatives who supported him because of his take on moral values. Proper responses would be support for Constitutional Amendments to ban gay marriage or abortion, or at the very least trumpet once again his faith based initiatives program. As we saw on Tuesday night, the voter support is there.

Instead, Bush has decided to go ahead with plans to privatize social security. The trick for Bush is, he wants to do it without cutting into benefits seniors enjoy right now. Social Security has never been an investment program -- seniors collecting social security are payed in funds provided by tax-payers today. There's no guarantee that the taxes I pay right now will be there for me when I retire because they go straight to SS recipients in the here and now. So for Bush to privatize SS without major cuts, he has to have a plan to keep benefits at the same level for seniors, while at the same time, siphoning off taxpayers funds into privatized investment accounts. In the end, this means he needs more money. Ten year estimates put it between $1 and $2 trillion.

The biggest fiscal problem with his plan: he hasn't said where he's going to get the money. It's not going to come from higher taxes, because he's made it clear he wants to make the tax cuts f 2001 and 2003 permanent. The only other option is to deficit spend -- to borrow more money from the international market in order to pay for his program. What critics are saying is, in this scenario, the price tag won't show up for another generation. Meaning, we'll be passing on the tax burden to our children, in order that we can enjoy tax cuts today. Like I've asked before, what happened to the old conservative mantra of fiscal responsibility?

My question to religious conservatives is this. When you voted for Bush, did you vote for him because he was a strong moral leader? Or did you vote for him because you agreed with his plan to privatize Social Security, deficit spending and all?

Or maybe a better way to frame the question is this. Did you realize that by voting for strong moral values, you were also voting for a president who plans to tax the future to pay for the present?

Colin Quinn's Final Repose

Living in Montana last year was boring like late night showings of Tora, Tora, Tora boring. By December I had broken down and bought a TV. But even that wasn't enough, so by March I had cable. Hours of college BB helped for a while. Come summer though, I had started a nightly tradition of sorts. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at midnight, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn at 12:30.

Everyone know about the Daily Show, but not enough people stuck around for what came next. Where Jon Stewart is lovably liberal, Colin Quinn is one of the few New York comics who is unabashedly conservative. And some of his friends were too. Sure, it was more jokes than discussion about world events, but what was so great about it was, they weren't liberal jokes, they were blue collar ones. And not that inane crap you might find courtesy of the Mason-Dixon, Jeff Foxworthy set; these were occasionally offensive, very politically incorrect, blue-collar New York jokes. And it never caught on. It's been quietly cancelled by Comedy Central.

I watched the last episode just a few minutes ago. They openly discussed why the show might have gotten cancelled, and why it never had the ratings of its lead-in. Basically, Tough Crowd had a little too much testosterone, couldn't find good reviews in the liberal Manhattan market, and was too offensive for most people. The shame is, it seems like liberal viewers don't get offended quite so easily when the humor appeals to them (see the Daily Show and Chappelle's Show), but when they don't get the humor, all they see is a racist/sexist/etc comment. So for Tough Crowd to make it, it needed more conservative viewers. But conservative viewers tend to steer clear of offensive or controversial TV altogether. Not finding an audience, Tough Crowd just died.

Tough Crowd was always the common-guy response to the elitist leanings of the Daily Show. That one-two punch was probably my favorite hour on TV. To be honest, Jon Stewart just isn't enough for me. I mean, the man has funny. But he's lost his foil in Colin Quinn. Whereas Jon always has the right comedic phrase for any situation, you can barely understand half of what Colin is saying. They were like that Stevie Wonder song. Only not really.

Maybe I'm making too much out of this. It's just TV. But for the longest time, while in Montana, my midnight hour on Comedy Central was the only time of the day I could just forget about all the crap at work; forget about how all my friends were a 1000 miles away; forget about how civilization was a days drive to the south; forget about how I still didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. It was good. And all I'm saying is, I'll miss it.

That's all.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

and then first things

The people have spoken. Let's move on.

I'm working on some broader themes at the moment, getting away from naming names, and thinking about the assumptions and beliefs behind those names. The exit polls from this election had Republican voters overwhelming citing moral values as their reason for supporting President Bush. Why is it that conservative voters see opposition to abortion and gay marriage as moral values, but support for health care and stronger allies when at war didn't show up on their moral radar? But that's for the future.

In the here and now, we've been scratching the surface of the abortion debate over on Midwest Mindset, exploring the link between economics/poverty and abortion rates. The site even has comments now, so that others can show us how little we comprehend and understand. Dusty and Jake have made some good points recently, so check it out.

Monday, November 01, 2004

last things first

Two items of note, from two people I think the world of. Thomas L. Friedman's column in the NY Times yesterday, endorsing George Bush, errr....Sr. A good read about how father is not to son, and what that's meant for our country over the last four years. But lastly, I'm giving the final word to William F. Buckley, Jr. His final pre-election column has statesman writen all over it, and is why I remain a conversative voter, even though I won't be casting my vote for our Repuplican president.

I pray for wisdom. I pray for certainty.

God bless.