Archive for October, 2010

Inconvenient Truth V

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

The Tea Party Express rolled through my little town in Southeast Michigan yesterday.  They didn’t have a lot of new things to say, but what they repeated was interesting.  The Obama administration is spending too much money.  The Obama administration is raising taxes.  The Obama administration is ruining the economy.  There are probably a few others that I’ve missed, but you get the general drift.

The Inconvenient Truth is that none of these things are true.

In fact the Obama administration has done many of the things that the Tea Party wants some new crop of legislators to accomplish.

He has cut taxes for middle class families more than $240B since he took office.   Approximately 40% of the stimulus plan that the Tea Party feels was wasted, funded the sort of tax CUTS that the Tea Party has been clamoring for.  He also provided tax breaks for college costs, extended unemployment benefits, and provided tax breaks for energy conservation which all benefit primarily the middle class.

He has reduced deficit spending from the $1.46T dollars posted in the last year of the Bush administration to $1.29T in his first budget. 

The economy has just recorded the fifth consecutive quarter of positive growth.  The recession is officially over.  The stock market is comfortably in the 11K range which economists say is a predictor of continued growth rather than a second recession.  Growth is far slower and unemployment is far higher than anyone wants, but statistics prove that things are improving.

The TARP plan, begun by the Bush administration, but administered by the Obama administration will actually turn a $16B profit when it is done.

Recent results from the surge strategy in Afghanistan are also positive. 

So what’s the problem?

As a recent Bloomberg poll shows, only a third of the voting populace believes it.  The other two thirds are so invested in the narratives being spun by conservative media and candidates, that they are willing to ignore the facts.

I’m just curious how you govern in this sort of atmosphere where bias is so much more powerful than fact.  There has to be come basic agreement on how you measure progress.  There has to be some essential respect for the truth.  In the absence of that, we leave ourselves vulnerable to demagogues, conspiracy theories, and mob rule. 

When the truth is trumped by opinion, democracy suffers.

Inconvenient Truth IV

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Immigration and Homosexuality

Lou Dobbs and Meg Whitman who have both taken strong stands against illegal immigration are themselves both guilty of employing illegal immigrants.

The latest data also documents that the number of illegal immigrants in this country has dropped dramatically since 2008 because demand for their labor has decreased.

So the whole narrative about illegal aliens coming here to bear children as a path to citizenship is largely a fantasy created by conservatives to scare people into supporting Republican and Tea Party candidates this fall.  The simple truth was and is that immigrants come here to work.  They are more law abiding than the rest of our population.  They pay taxes without consuming many of the services.  Finally, if there is no work, they will stay home.

It is also true that the wealthy (like Lou and Meg) are unwilling to put their money where their mouth is.  If they are truly committed to providing employment for US citizens and reducing the influx of illegal aliens, they would have reflected that in their hiring practices.  The truth is that they like many other rich conservatives, really view immigrants as cheap labor and will happily employ them if it saves them a buck while at the same time trying to blame the Obama administration and Democrats for a fictitious failure to police our borders.

We have also had the ongoing spectacle of conservative government officials and clergy so deeply closeted that they can take virulent anti-gay public positions at the same time as they are participating in same-sex relationships.

So what is wrong with this picture?

In my mind, it points out the hypocrisy of the positions rather than the hypocrisy of the people.

When it comes down to people, it is no longer an immigration issue.  It’s the recognition, in Meg Whitman’s case for example, that her housekeeper/nanny for over a decade was a wonderful person and part of the family.  The fact that Ms Whitman was willing to sever that relationship because it might have affected her ability to run as a conservative Republican raises far more serious issues about her ability to govern than anything else that she has said.  The only immigration position available for her, also forced her to deny what she knew to be true.  Illegal immigrants are not bad people and do provide valuable services that are hard to find among the population of US citizens.  She is no different from the horse lover (Lou Dobbs), farmer, meat packer, construction company owner, or lawn service company owner who hire immigrant workers today and wink at the immigration laws. 

Similarly, the ability to so compartmentalize your sexual life that your private actions are in direct opposition to your public positions suggests that the public position is fundamentally flawed.  Sexuality is not something that can be governed or legislated.  It is part of who a person is and those who condemn this concept are likely in one way or another suffering this same sort of denial.  If nothing else, the examples of these deeply conflicted people should demonstrate that they CAN’T be any other way and ultimately can’t deny who they are no matter how hard they try.

We are ALL God’s children and made perfect in His image and likeness whether we are rich, poor, legal, illegal, gay, or straight.

The Unknown God

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

“For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” Acts 17:23

Paul found the Greeks far too superstitious.  They had altars for every conceivable deity plus one catch all to cover anything that they may have missed.  He used this last altar to preach to them about the one God and his Christ. 

Seems like some of that same ignorance remains in Christians today.  A recent survey from the Pew Forum research folks turned up some interesting data.

What they were measuring is knowledge about religion, specifically your own religion and the religion of others.

What they discovered is that those who knew the most about religion were…

………wait for it……………

Atheists.

That’s right.  The people who have decided that there is no God know more about the religions that they have rejected than those that actually claim to practice those religions.

After the atheists came the Jews and Mormons in a dead heat.  Finally the Christians bring up the rear.

So why is that?

Those who have spend some time on this subject say that it is because it isn’t easy being an atheist.  They are generally better educated and atheism is ultimately a personal choice generally made after a long period of study.  They go looking for God and come to the conclusion that He can’t be found.

Many Christians, on the other hand, were raised in their religion, don’t actually read the Bible, have long since forgotten their childhood religious education, and form their current opinions based on what they hear in Church.  In other words, they are Sunday Christians at least in their commitment to study and investment of personal time.

This is consistent with my own personal experience.  I had a co-worker who was part of a Bible study group at a local mega church.  They were studying the story of the prodigal son.  I struck up a conversation on the topic because I’d recently read the story in the Bible.  I found that way the father handled the older son’s jealousy just as interesting as the rest of the story.  My co-worker didn’t know what I was talking about.  Turns out that at least in this case, the term “Bible Study” was a misnomer.  They didn’t actually study or even read the Bible.  What they studied were handouts they received from their church.  The handouts summarized the Bible story and then suggested topics of discussion.  So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that a majority or Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation or failed in their attempt to correctly identify books of the Bible.

It also explains why some churches can freely embrace and support aspects of the Tea Party movement which ignore fundamental aspects of Jesus New Testament philosophy – for example respect and care for the poor and less fortunate.

It is at times like this when we all have an opportunity to spend a moment or two in self-reflection which hopefully leads to some simple prayer (unless you are an atheist) for humility and guidance.