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Category: Politics

“Well Howdy Stranger” – Immigration Reform: don’t worry guys, I’ve figured this whole thing out!

"We were strangers once too."

“We were strangers once too.”

The President recently said in his speech regarding his executive action to delay deportation of several million non-citizen humans who live in the United States (rather than amnesty millions like Reagan) that “We were strangers once too”. He is correct, and that is a good reminder, but does that overly simplify this whole thing? Let’s talk about it 🙂

*Disclaimer: I decided to give you the answer in technical terms upfront of what I think about Obama’s executive action on immigration recently, followed by a slightly longer explanation of how I see those who would want to live here. It is as follows:

SHORTER SYNOPSIS

President Obama said repeatedly for several years that he was not a king, and that he could not change the law in regards to who would and who would not receive citizenship in the United States who didn’t already have it. He announced this week (after several years of waiting for action from Congress) that he would be enacting an “executive order” to delay the deportation of people who are not citizens in the United States who had children who were born here in the United States. There was an enormously popular bill a few years ago that was blocked in Congress called “The Dream Act” which would have made these people citizens, not simply delay their deportations until the end of this president’s term. Delaying their deportation does not make them citizens, and thus he did not change the law as he previously pointed out that he could not. It may seem like a stupid formality to say that this is not amnesty, but if that’s how you feel you are wrong, and I don’t say that intending to hurt your feelings. Saying that Obama broke his word in the law is really not the argument that conservatives should probably be making (I must say their obsession with this President never ceases to amaze me). I think instead, for their own political sake, that they should come to the table and say that they are ready to debate this issue right now in Congress (finally), and they don’t want to delay for anyone (even if they had an anchor baby…). Wouldn’t that be the least they could do as a response?

*Disclaimer: by the way, I feel the need to say this yet again – there is nothing wrong with being conservative, but the American conservative party leadership repeatedly disappoints me, as does the democratic leadership. I just find myself most offended by the doublespeak that churns from their actions and talking points. If you are conservative that is 100% great, we probably agree on a most things, as our nations politics are really just a chess game, and we seem to be the pawns. I repeatedly find that my conservative friends and I want almost the exact same government when you get down to it.

The mudslinging in American politics today is not helpful, or even amusing anymore. It’s like watching the TV show “Mob Wives”. It’s like the real housewives of wherever, except that they threaten to kill each other and seriously hurt those around them… I have mixed feelings about the President’s approach, but I hardly find it nearly as shameful as the behavior of Congress! If we are truly a great nation we have to face our broken immigration system, and the fact that most of the people who sneak in know that they wouldn’t get in otherwise is a big problem for the “go home and reapply” strategy. But a larger reality is that most of the people who are in this country illegally did not sneak in, they came to visit legally and never left. Some of these people might have faced oppression at home, and some just like America. We need to learn to take a compliment, everyone wants to come to our party! We need a better bouncer, who’s not drunk and sprawled out on the floor, but we also don’t want Scarface wielding death to all who may attempt to enter… In the end we probably mostly all agree: we need stronger security at our borders (probably less abroad), and we need a functional immigration system (which means a system that won’t leave out the farmhands who otherwise would be forgotten with the current process).

This has been my short form version of my thoughts on the current immigration debate as of December 2014, but below I will try my best to embellish on my ability to talk about this issue.

LONGER SYNAPSIS:

So, if you clicked on this link my guess is that you heard about the speech that Obama gave in regards to his “executive action” on immigration… We as a nation mostly agree on most things, but we are torn apart by very strategic teamsmanship on most issues, and this is one of them. I think that the idea of better protecting our borders is actually a great idea. That doesn’t mean a “double fence, electrified!” like Mr. Herman Cain proposed. It does however mean that we actually make plans for what to do with people fleeing their homelands for a better life in America in a way that provides dignity, unlike the Joe Arpaio school of thought. That is a big government idea, and even though I don’t endorse most intervention by the government on social behaviors I do think that there are several strong arguments for preserving our ability to actually govern a known population. But that doesn’t mean that we should drop drones on mostly pious folks who simply want to feed their families by crossing our borders. I’m terrified of a police/military state, but we have to have some order, so let’s talk about how we make that happen.

With that said I also find it very difficult to read any of our nation’s founding documents and also justify extreme measures of social engineering that completely disregards the almost surely inexplicable chance that I were fortunate to be born in a better part of the world. How fervently do we as a nation believe that the statement “all men are created equal” is actually true? I believe that we should have more compassion for people who want to come to the United States and participate in our amazing society. I’ve had a few amazing opportunities to travel over the last nine years or so, and I have a hard time looking myself in the mirror and telling myself that I deserve this country more than some of the amazing and educated, as well as the poor and forgotten people I’ve had the chance to meet. I know that it was hard to build this country, and yet I find myself less willing to do so many of the jobs that make this country so comfortable.

To some this may sound overly defensive, but I feel that I must say it anyways – I am aware that it can be a very bad thing for the people and the police/military to clash in the streets, I mean I’m pretty sure that the sick feeling that people have in their stomach from watching the riots in the streets in Ferguson, Missouri isn’t the flu. I’m terrified of the military/surveillance state that seems to be growing around us, but at some point we stopped teaching peaceful protest because it became a dirty word.

Side Note: my high school has actually been at the center of some protesting which has been rather peaceful, but due to the nature of a split in some of the recourse that people are asking for many people who want to show their support don’t show up. There were 3 girls raped by the same boy (you can read about it here), and the school administration being in a tight spot has seen a lot of scrutiny for their reaction. A lot of students and parents have been slow to protest publicly because they don’t want to give the impression that they are against the administration, but they do want to support the victims… See, that’s the problem with protest (old school rally style or digital), is that people are afraid of sending the wrong message.

A video of the Norman High protesters

Ok, let’s get back to what I was saying about us having trouble unifying in protest. I think that our lack of public outcry for better policy is truly the reason why we don’t have better policy. It is hard for me not to agree when charlatans blather about the stupidity of the American people. Look, I’m not a genius, but by watching American approval of policies and then how they vote for leaders who oppose their favorite policies I just find myself perpetually dumbfounded…

The government can’t do everything, but it can do some things. It has midwifed a lot of great ideas (the Internet, space travel, interstate highways). When we find that private industry can take over on projects where the government was the only willing investor it is a beautiful thing! You can see that happening with space travel right now. However, private industry can cause economic instability/unsustainable price increases, and we as a society must create dams and levees to prevent disaster, and this seems to be a never ending back and forth battle that the people have mostly been losing over the last few decades (ie: the repeal of Glass Steagall, as opposed to the implementation of Sarbanes Oxley).

Okay, so I made a silly title just to see if you’d click on it… I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have a few thoughts to share on the idea of peoples who want to live in the United States of America. I’m not the most worldly of people, nor am I the smartest/nicest/strongest/most handsome/coolest (okay me, I get the point!!!!), but I have had some unique opportunities to meet people from other parts of the world, and I can’t help but to emphasize that when I say people I mean they are just like you and me… There are cultural differences between the United States and everywhere else, but the differences in the end are really semantical. I sincerely hope to not come across as preachy, but I’m not sure how else to say all of these things, so I’m about to say a few weird things about places/peoples who I have experiences with…

China: there is no doubt about it that if you are a white person in China they will think that you are probably a celebrity. I mean, in China they totally thought that I was cool! I probably convinced several hundred people that I was either Harry Potter, or his older brother. My Chinese friends loved basketball, and by that I mean they were very proud of Yao Ming. Oh, in China it was apparently not offensive to say that they have yellow skin, just fyi. There are tons of ways that I can make fun of Chinese people (that includes you Figo, I know you’re reading this), and that is ok as long as it’s out of love and you are willing to take a joke yourself.

Egypt: When people talk about the Middle East in the United States they seem to first picture a lot of people running through rubble covered in blood screaming something in Arabic that makes you once again believe that the apocalypse may be upon us… I don’t mean to downplay the fact that this happens in the world, but I have my suspicions about how regularly this happens throughout the entirety of the Middle East… Sure there are places that are unsafe, and there are extremist muslims, but I looked for them and found virtually none – the majority of the people is not a part of the extremist faction of Islam. During my week stay in Egypt recently I found that people thoroughly enjoyed my impression of an Egyptian trying to sell them anything and everything I could find, promising the cheapest of prices because they were my “friend”. They were people, and they had senses of humor, even about themselves… Trust me, most of the people that I met would make great neighbors, but most of them could not get through our immigration process. That is especially true for the small village made up almost entirely of Christians called Zabbaleen, near Mokattam.

*Feel free to read about my experience there by clicking here (I plan to write more about this village soon).

I have found that our nation can often be overly politically correct, and after I made a few jokes about Chinese people to Chinese people, or the same to Egyptian people, they somehow became more humanized in my eyes, and I in theirs. Part of our problem with immigration reform is that we have a lot of people driving the debate who don’t see people who are different from themselves as quality candidates to be their fellow countrymen… I’m not pointing this out because I want it to be true, it is in our nature, and if you look closely at yourself you will almost surely find that your instinctual pregiduouses pop up. The more I recognize my own simple bigotries the more that I feel capable of recognizing other people who I might have otherwise considered an “other”. I’m going to attach this video to this blog, for what must be the 10th time, about measuring bigotry in babies from 60 Minutes.

Last Thought: I just wanted to talk about this idea of “the other” because I think we should keep in mind our own limitations when we try to have a conversation about legislation like this. I’m sorry that this is so long, and if you read the whole thing I am very proud of you. I hope that you have a great rest of your day!

This Bill Maher and Ben Affleck Exchange Is Incredibly Important For Liberals and Conservatives

affleck_maher

Let me first just say that I’m not sure if keeping score on something like this is good for anyone… But Bill had a strong point to make, but so did Ben actually.

Wow… I love a good debate, and this really was a huge debate to watch. On one side you have the liberal force of “tolerance” so that we don’t lump groups in a distortion of their true character (represented by Mr. Affleck), and on the other side we have the liberal cornerstone of an activism that has zero tolerance for any social and economic oppression subjugated by any ideology (represented by Mr. Maher). This article sums up a good portion of how I feel, but I think there is more to it. I think that what Bill was saying is incredibly important, and I think that what Ben was saying is crucial to actually solving the problem. Bill was pointing out that renouncing your faith should not be cause for being put to death, which it is perceived to be for many people. He quoted that something like 90% of Egyptians felt that leaving Islam should result in capital punishment, and I thought I’d heard the same about Saudi Arabia. That is astounding to me, and assuming that the polling is correct I am left terrified of how we might bridge the divide in our cultures.

Ben however, was taking a firm stance that you can’t just throw entire regions and cultures out like this – which I find admirable in terms of how we may ever have to address this problem. Where I find myself frustrated on this front is the double standard between the Middle East and the Heartland of America. Liberals like Ben (and maybe not him more specifically) almost predictably take this stance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater on people and their cultures, until it comes to the Christian coalition (not the necessarily the actual organization with that name) of people across this country who are reamed constantly by the media for having faith. Some groups and individuals who call themselves Christians probably deserve some harsh feedback, but we don’t usually hear this same kind of nuanced approach with Christianity in America.

If someone wants to go after religion they don’t necessarily hurt my feelings – society needs people like that so you don’t end up with a population that thinks we should kill people who don’t believe in what we believe in and can’t prove. BUT, if you are going to do it you should remain consistent, and nuanced in your value judgements of these differing groups and their ideas. I wish Bill wouldn’t be so willing to throw people out like he does, and I wish Ben would clarify his standard, as well as recognize that what Bill was saying is scary. If those poll numbers don’t scare you then you must not be paying attention…

I will actually be taking a trip in November with my good buddy Gavin to Egypt, and I just want to say that I can’t wait to meet these people who are often villainized by the media – and who like me don’t have the world figured out yet. I’m sure we could come up with some astounding polling from the United States over the last century, so to side with Ben for a second I hope that we can work on finding our common ground so that maybe we can work on exchanging our best ideas, and not just harp on our differences.

So, here is the exchange, and below is a very interesting article about the whole thing. Please feel free to give me your feedback:

And due to neither of these men being representatives of Islam I figured we’d throw in this Reza Aslan interview that would most support Ben’s thinking for before you read an article about why Bill is right:

The Daily Beast
 

Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0

The Real Time host’s spat with the Gone Girl star gets to the heart of a major and longtime problem within contemporary Western liberalism

Every once in a great while, something happens on television that you know while you’re watching it: Well, this is unusual. Those old enough to know what I’m talking about when I say “Al Campanis”  will remember that that was one of your more extreme cases. The exchange between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on last Friday’s Real Time wasn’t a Campanis moment, but I knew instantly—watching it in, well, real time, as it were—that this was going to spark discussion,  as indeed it has.

In case you missed it, the two—both committed and thoughtful liberals—got into it on the question of whether Western liberals can or should criticize Islam. Mentioning freedom of speech and equal rights, Maher said: “These are liberal principles that liberals applaud for, but then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.” Sam Harris, the atheist author, agreed with Maher and said, “The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. That is intellectually ridiculous.” Affleck, as if on cue, challenged Harris: “Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam?” And then: “So you’re saying that Islamophobia is not a real thing?” Right after, Affleck said that such criticisms of Islam were “gross” and “racist” and “like saying [to Maher] ‘you’re a shifty Jew.’”

It was cracking good TV, but it was more—it hit home because they were describing one of the most important debates within liberalism of the last…10 years certainly, as pertains to Islam, but 40 or 50 years as relates to arguments between the developed and the developing world, and close to a century when it comes to discussions of how culture should affect our understanding of universal, or as some would have it “universal,” principles. Reluctance to criticize the failures of other cultures has been a problem within contemporary liberalism, with negative consequences I’ll go into below. So this liberal is firmly on Maher’s side, even as I recognize that his rendering is something of a caricature.

Here’s some quick history for you. First, the Enlightenment happened, and humankind developed the idea of universal rights. ’Round about the 1920s, some scholars in the then-newish field of cultural anthropology started to argue that all rights, or at least values, were not universal, and that we (the West) should be careful about imposing our values on societies with traditions and customs so removed from our own.

A big moment here came with the debate over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which asserted the universalist position without apology and which was pushed mostly by mainstream political liberals (Eleanor Roosevelt most notably). There were many critiques of the declaration from what we would today call “the left,” but those voices had little juice in those days, and when the UN adopted the declaration, it was a great victory for liberalism.

Fade in, fade out. Then came the anti-colonialist uprisings of the 1950s, Frantz Fanon, postmodern political theory, Vietnam, the Israeli occupation, the intifada, et cetera et cetera. All of these and many other kindred events seeped into the liberal bloodstream, still rich in universalist cells but now also coursing with the competing cells of cultural relativism (invariably a pejorative these days, although it wasn’t always).

And so, yes, we have seen in recent years from liberalism, or at least from some liberals (a crucial distinction, in fact), an unwillingness to criticize the reactionary aspects or expressions of other cultures, expressions that these liberals would have no hesitation whatsover in criticizing if they were exhibited by, say, Southern white Christians.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is that of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim-African-Dutch-and-finally-American feminist intellectual. She of course is famous, now mostly for some of her more incendiary comments, but recall how she first became so: She and her collaborator, Theo van Gogh, had made a film critical of the oppression of women in the Muslim world. He was murdered, and she received death threats. She fled to the United States.

Now, here was a key moment: When she came to America in 2006, where was Hirsi Ali going to plant her flag? As she tells the story in her book Nomad, she met with liberal and conservative outfits. She says the liberal ones were “tentative” in their support for her and her ideas, but the conservative American Enterprise Institute embraced her totally, even though on certain issues (like abortion rights) she’s no conservative.

Hirsi Ali, of course, has subsequently gone on to say, quite controversially, that not just radical Islam but “Islam, period” must be “defeated.” But here’s the question: Before she started talking like that, why was she unable to find a home within American liberalism? It should be, and should have been, a core part of the mission of liberalism to support secular humanists and small-d democrats from all over the world, but from the Muslim world in particular. Most of these people are themselves liberals by Western standards, and they are desperate for the United States to do what it can to oppose the theocracies and autocracies under which they’re forced to live.

Maher, and certainly conservative critics, overstate the extent to which liberals fail to make common cause with such folks. Christian evangelicals who do work on, say, genital mutilation (which Hirsi Ali suffered) get a lot more attention in the media, because it’s more “interesting” that white conservatives give a crap about something happening to nonwhite women halfway across the world. But as the writer Michelle Goldberg pointed out in a review of Hirsi Ali’s Nomad for the journal I edit, Democracy, numerous women’s organizations and feminist groups do work to advance women’s rights in the Muslim world.

Goldberg wrote: “A few years ago, I visited Tasaru Ntomonok, which is the kind of place Hirsi Ali would probably love—it’s a Kenyan shelter that houses and educates girls fleeing female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Among its supporters are the high profile feminist Eve Ensler, the feminist NGO Equality Now, and the United Nations Population Fund, a bête noire of many conservatives. There are similar grassroots organizations working toward women’s liberation all over the world.”

Even so, Maher has identified a problem within Western liberalism today. Debates about multiculturalism are appropriate to a later stage of development of the infrastructure of rights and liberties than one finds in some other parts of the world. That infrastructure has existed in Western countries for a century, and it is the very fact that it was so solidly entrenched that opened up the space for us to start having debates about multiculturalism in the 1970s and ’80s.

But in much of the Arab and Muslim world, that infrastructure barely exists. So—and how’s this for a paradox?—to insist that our Western standards that call for multiculturalist values should be applied to countries that haven’t yet fully developed the basic rights infrastructure constitutes its own kind of imposition of our values onto them. A liberated woman or a gay man who lives in a country where being either of those things is at best unaccepted and at worst illegal doesn’t need multiculturalism. They’re desperate for a little universalism, and we Western liberals need to pay more attention to this.

via Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0 – The Daily Beast.

Lamborn starts losing allies over military controversy | MSNBC

Yes, this is from the blog of the partisan and divisive Rachel Maddow, but the topic being discussed is very interesting to me. It will probably become partisan by comparison of the different political parties, but let’s talk about what this congressman was saying. Is it a good idea for United States military commanders to walk away because of the Presidents so-called inaction? Is this different from liberals asking for anyone and everyone to walk away from perceived adventurous overaction by Commanders-in-Chief of either party in the past (minus Carter who was pretty much the only President who is claimed to have never “fired a shot” while acting as President – but including every other President since FDR in the 40’s)? Are we the world’s police? Should we go it alone? Even if so should congress first vote on it as the constitution demands (assuming it will last over 60 days, which would constitutionally mean that the President doesn’t have enough authority to conduct a war on his/her own, regardless of if we’ve done it in the past). What is the end game with this war?

You see, I find that this is all very complicated, and I actually very much appreciate that the President has been thoughtful about getting us back into another conflict in the Middle East, without a clear directive… I find that it’s hardly presumptuous to say that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I do think that the President has played some political games, but which President hasn’t done that, and let’s please be clear in defining what we think those games are. My biggest hang up was how he talked about a Red Line in the sand on chemical weapons in Syria last year, and when we discovered that they were used he seemed grasp at straws as to why we shouldn’t go to war. He, as well as the rest of us, were lucky that some reporter at a press conference asked Secretary Kerry what would stop us from going to war, and he incredulously said that we wouldn’t go if they handed the weapons over. Much to the shagrin of the warhawks around the world, they handed them over and we didn’t go to war… And now we are stuck trying to figure out how to disavow the Assad regime, as well as dismember their newest local rebellion “ISIS/ISOL”, which fills the vacuum that is left due to a lack of infrastructure and accountability around the border of Iraq and Syria.

I point all of these things out simply to say that I find it truly offensive that in a time like this, when we do have foes abroad who will need to be addressed (and hopefully with the compliance of the world community) that we have have members of our United States Congress publicly asking the leadership in our military to act as the leadership in congress has over the past several years by demanding non-compliance with the President of The United States of America for political gain… This is hardly a speculation, this is quite simply the truth. Again, I’m not saying that the President has been perfect, but I don’t even his job, and actually I truly appreciate that we haven’t rushed to war and repeated some of our mistakes of the last half century (primarily the last decade).

If you’re wondering what I’m going on and on about please feel free read the article I’ve posted below, or just click the link just below this babbling culmination of my simple understandings about geopolitical conflict.

*Ok, I thought I was done, but I would like to add one more thing – I am wary of how the President has treated the situation in Iraq (as well as Syria actually) with regard to the intelligence community. He seems to have responded by saying that information was misrepresented, while I was just hoping it was his overall caution with respect to conflict in the region. I am not sure how I feel about how he’s handling all of this, but I don’t envy his job, and I’m glad we didn’t go in sooner and do all of the things that team McCain/Graham would’ve preferred (I think we would’ve done our nation and it’s image a great disservice).

Rant Done

Lamborn starts losing allies over military controversy | MSNBC.

 

In this May 2, 2012 file photo, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., speaks at the Capitol in Denver.
In this May 2, 2012 file photo, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., speaks at the Capitol in Denver.
Ed Andrieski, File/AP Photo

Lamborn starts losing allies over military controversy

09/30/14 08:37 AM—UPDATED 09/30/14 09:21 AM

By Steve Benen

For any politician facing a political controversy, there’s one sure sign of trouble: the loss of political allies. Most political figures are accustomed to criticism from the other side of the aisle, and they expect scrutiny from journalists, but when members of their own party start turning on them, it’s a real problem.
Which brings us back to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who boasted last week that he’s urged active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during a war, in order to undermine the Obama administration.
The Colorado Springs’ newspaper, The Gazette, reports today that Lamborn is now facing rebukes from two high-profile Republicans from Colorado’s congressional delegation.
On Sunday night, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, tweeted a link to a story about Lamborn’s comments and said, “As a Marine and combat veteran, I know to keep my politics off the battlefield.”
And when asked about Lamborn’s statement, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said: “There is no room for partisan politics when it comes to our men and women in uniform.”
To be sure, these aren’t sweeping condemnations, but let’s not overlook the context: with 35 days to go before Election Day, Coffman is in the middle of one of the nation’s most competitive U.S. House races, while Gardner is running in one of the nation’s most competitive U.S. Senate races. They’re both Republicans, but neither one of these congressmen are prepared to offer even a halfhearted defense for Lamborn’s controversial remarks.
Coffman and Gardner could have phrased this any number of ways to try and extend support to their GOP ally, but they chose to rebuke him instead. And while Gardner’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question, note that Coffman’s admonition was unprompted – he just wanted the public to know what Lamborn did was wrong.
How long until House Republican leaders are pressured to weigh in, too? For that matter, how long until House Democrats start pushing for Lamborn’s removal from the House Armed Services Committee?
This doesn’t appear to be going away. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald published an item yesterday that didn’t hold back the emotional outrage.
Congressman Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, is an un-American demagogue, willing to sabotage this country for his own grandstanding narcissism. If his words are to be believed, this brigadier blowhard is thoroughly unfit for public office and instead should be rotting in jail on charges of treason. […]
Lamborn is the latest type of political muck America needs to scrape off the bottom of its national shoe: an officeholder so absorbed with his hatred of the opposing party that he is willing to do anything, no matter how much it damages our national security and the underpinnings of our democracy, if it will win him some applause and maybe a couple of votes.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, has also picked up on the controversy, and quoted a Lamborn aide saying yesterday that the congressman “was referencing prior occasions, such as the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy or budget cuts.”
The problem with the defense is that it’s still literally unbelievable. As we discussed yesterday, a voter made some bizarre anti-Obama comments at a local event, while urging the congressman to “support the generals and the troops.” The congressman replied, “[L]et me reassure you on this. A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation. You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory.’”
All of this was in present tense. For that matter, the U.S. was still at war in 2010 (during the debate over DADT repeal) and in 2013 (during the debate over sequestration), so it’s not as if the defense is especially compelling anyway – for a congressman to push for wartime resignations to undermine U.S. policy is problematic no matter when it happens.
And so the questions for the Republican congressman remain the same: When you said “a lot of us” are pushing generals to resign, who else is involved in this effort? Which generals have you talked to “behind the scenes”? Why would it help U.S. interests for generals to resign during a war? Exactly how many times did you talk to the generals about this, and when was the last conversation?
The questions for House Republican leaders are just as straightforward: Doug Lamborn bragged publicly about basically trying to incite mutiny among America’s generals during war time. Is that acceptable behavior?

Texas Gov. Perry to turn himself in Tuesday, on heels of indictment | Fox News

 

Rick-perry3

Just to clarify, I don’t find this news to be something to celebrate. I do not hate Rick Perry, and it is sad to see stories like this. Nonetheless, I am not a big fan of his political career, and this is big news. I hope that he has a wonderful life, and that he gets this behind him, and also that he stops having such influence in public policy that affects so many people.

 

Texas Gov. Perry to turn himself in Tuesday, on heels of indictment

Texas Gov. Perry to turn himself in Tuesday, on heels of indictmentPublished August 19, 2014FoxNews.com0 Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to turn himself into authorities Tuesday afternoon at a local Texas jail on the heels of his indictment for alleged abuse of power, a member of the governor’s legal team told Fox News. The governor is expected to be processed quickly and to leave. He is not subject to an arrest warrant. However, Fox News has learned Perry will have his mugshot and fingerprints taken. He plans to arrive at the Travis County Justice Complex in Austin at about 5 p.m. local time. Fox News’ Casey Stegall contributed to this report.

via Texas Gov. Perry to turn himself in Tuesday, on heels of indictment | Fox News.

The Trials of Ted Haggard

haggard

 

Over the last several months I have found myself trying to write, but sometimes I don’t feel that I can fully express what I’m trying to write about, and at other times I find myself discouraged by our scalding discourse. I go through different phases of curiosity, and they are often fueled by logic games and divergent philosophies. Over the last several months I’ve felt myself having a greater desire to hear people’s stories. For the life of me I can’t get passed this recent feeling of sorrow for people who believe in the sincerest of ideals, but they know that they cannot live up to those ideals. There has been one person who I have had trouble getting out of my mind as I think about falling short of great expectations, and that man has been Ted Haggard. I haven’t found that I agree with Mr. Haggard on plenty, but for multiple reasons I just can’t get his “fall from grace” in his community out my mind. I know i haven’t shared much lately, but I felt that this was worth worth sharing.

 

Saving Young People From Themselves – Steve Rattner

StevenRattner.com: Saving Young People From Themselves


Saving Young People From Themselves

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 11:38 AM PDT

Originally published in the New York Times.

RETIREMENT is a financial obligation that today’s younger generations are not handling well. That may be through no fault of their own — they suffer from lower incomes, after being adjusted for inflation, and student debt that makes it a struggle to save. But regardless of the reason, the failure to save for retirement is setting up Americans in their 20s and early 30s for financially stressed golden years.

The statistics are startling: Only 43 percent of eligible workers under 25, and 62 percent of those between 25 and 34 participate in 401(k) plans, compared with 70 percent or more of those over 45. And the young contribute less — 4.3 percent of income for those under 25 and 5.5 percent for ages 25 to 34. In contrast, Americans between 55 and 64 direct 8.7 percent of their incomes to these plans.

Skimpy retirement assets might be manageable if they were being offset by other wealth accumulation. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, adjusted for inflation, members of Gen Y — those born after 1980 — are poorer than their parents were at similar ages.

We should address this looming crisis via a radical restructuring of our retirement plans, including mandated savings.

While the saving problem may be acute for young people, it’s hardly limited to them. After rising during the financial crisis, the overall savings rate of Americans has once again declined to paltry levels. For those who have saved and invested in equities, the surge in stock market prices since the recession ended has helped, which has pushed up the value of retirement holdings.

But in an unfortunate irony, many millennials, who watched share prices collapse in 2008, then steered clear of the market, thereby missing out on its rise. Typically, these young Americans keep about half of their portfolios in cash — not a sensible long-term investment strategy.

Earlier this year, to take a stab at addressing the retirement issue, President Obama proposed a new form of Individual Retirement Account that would allow Americans with household incomes below $191,000 to put aside money that would accumulate tax free. Unfortunately, the Obama idea is only a symbolic and inadequate gesture. For one thing, its cap of $5,500 per year is too small, and it lacks automatic enrollment or mandatory employer-contribution.

For another, contributions would initially be invested at low Treasury rates. Younger workers should be investing mostly in equities, which, over time, should provide higher returns.

Under the Obama plan, when an individual’s account reached $15,000, funds would be moved into an investment offering from the private sector, which would confront people with the same daunting and unfamiliar choices that face holders of 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts.

A better idea, but still offering only marginal improvement, is the one proposed annually by the president and ignored annually by Congress: requiring employers who do not provide 401(k) programs to offer automatic enrollment in I.R.A.s.

I’d love to see the restoration of defined benefit pensions, which combined automatic saving and sensible, long-term investment strategies. But that’s not going to happen. So at the least, we should take the responsibility for managing retirement funds away from ill-equipped individuals.

To that end, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has proposed a plan that would offer a more certain retirement benefit than existing individual plans provide, together with automatic enrollment, universal coverage, portability from employer to employer and professional management.

However, Senator Harkin’s plan has its own flaws — it doesn’t require any employer participation, and participants would be allowed to reduce their contributions or opt out entirely.

The best solution would take up the question of mandated savings. I understand that in today’s world of stagnant incomes, forced savings mean less money for individuals to spend now. But would we seriously prefer that our children become impoverished senior citizens? The approach I like is Australia’s superannuation program, which requires that 9 percent of workers’ pay be diverted into retirement accounts. Tax incentives are also provided, to encourage additional deposits.

The superannuation funds collectively have $1.7 trillion in investment assets. Adjusted for population, that’s the equivalent of $25 trillion for the United States, over twice what Americans have parked in 401(k)s and I.R.A.s. That’s an idea worth considering.

Young Americans are on track to be worse off in retirement than their parents. Let’s not just sit by and watch that happen.

Saving Young People From Themselves.

Tired of That “I Want To Go To Church And Not Be Called Dumb Or Bigoted” Feeling? You’re Not Alone.

 

 

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In 2008 I moved to China to live with a group of Americans in China (including my sister) who had pledged to live amongst the Chinese, and teach English in their schools as a form of ministry. We of course couldn’t be overt,  that would have been illegal, but we would live our lives and set examples so that they might find themselves curious why we loved so freely, and shared what we had with such ease – well that was the goal at least. While I was living in China someone introduced me to the teachings of Tim Keller, and at first my pride prevented me from giving it a shot and listening to my friend’s advice (and I think this same know-it-all mentality is a one of the biggest plagues of the human condition).  Ever since I began listening to Mr. Keller I have found great comfort in people having differing opinions, and in the idea that God made me curious and surely wants me to ask as many questions as I genuinely am able!!!

I just ran across this clip recently, while I recommend watching longer talks of his, I know about this “know-it-all” human condition from which all people seem susceptible of falling victim, so I figured I’d post a short and sweet video as an introduction for anyone willing to listen for a hand full of minutes on this beautiful Sunday. If you are interested in hearing more from Tim I recommend watching his talks at Google, which were reported at the time to have been the most crowded lectures by an author at Google (which surprised me). I will post one of them below from when he went to Google to discuss his book “A Reason For God”. I hope you enjoy.

 

Tim Keller at Google

It’s Been 46 Years, And Things Will Never Be The Same.

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The Vietnam War is, and was a highly controversial war because for the first time United States citizens were exposed to real images that of what it actually looked like to kill someone in war – and some of those images were of women, children, and the elderly. 46 years ago this week there was in extraordinary event by civilian standards, that would change the world and how wars would be faught from thence forth… After Americans, and citizens of the world saw these images the public opinion of the war shifted enormously, and the people like George Romney who had to disappear for changing their minds about the war would be somewhat vindicated, but their lives and careers would never be the same. Here is a video of that life/career changing decision to speak against what he’d seen in the war:

*This post is not meant to say that we were then, or are the “bad guys”, that is just not the case. However, it is meant to serve as a reminder, or informer that it’s not so simple. When we talk about going to war we need to look it in the face. I believe in our service members, and I believe in so much that they do. That doesn’t mean however that we should let ourselves forget our place in this world, and the realities of war.

WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC

 

via Wikipedia

The Mỹ Lai Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Mỹ Lai [tʰɐ̃ːm ʂɐ̌ːt mǐˀ lɐːj], [mǐˀlɐːj]  /ˌmiːˈlaɪ/, /ˌmiːˈleɪ/, or /ˌmaɪˈlaɪ/)[1] was the Vietnam War mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. It was committed by the U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Victims included women, men, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated.[2][3] Twenty six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Second Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.
The massacre, which was later called “the most shocking episode of the Vietnam War”,[4] took place in two hamlets of Son My village in Sơn Tịnh District of Quảng Ngãi Province on the South Central Coast of the South China Sea, 100 miles south of Da Nang and several miles north of Quảng Ngãi city east of Highway 1.[5] These hamlets were marked on the U.S. Army topographic maps as My Lai and My Khe.[6] The U.S. military codeword for the alleged Viet Cong stronghold in that area was Pinkville,[7] and the carnage became known as the Pinkville Massacre first.[8][9] Next, when the U.S. Army started its investigation, the media changed it to the Massacre at Songmy.[10] Currently, the event is referred to as the My Lai Massacre in America and called the Son My Massacre in Vietnam.
The incident prompted global outrage when it became public knowledge in November 1969. The My Lai massacre increased to some extent[11] domestic opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War when the scope of killing and cover-up attempts were exposed. Initially, three U.S. servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and rescue the hiding civilians were shunned, and even denounced as traitors by several U.S. Congressmen, including Mendel Rivers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Only thirty years later they were recognized and decorated, one posthumously, by the U.S. Army for shielding noncombatants from harm in a war zone.[12]

“Why We Did It” – Oh Boy… Whether You Find It To Be Accurate Or Not It Will Probably Upset You…

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You can click on this picture to watch their interview if you would like

Recently Rachel Maddow went on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and now that I have your attention here is some more information…

I considering myself a moderate, which more than anything means that new information can affect what I think. A while back Rachel Maddow produced a TV Documentary called “Hubris” which addressed the ‘so called” false pretenses that allowed our nation to go to war with Iraq – meaning that what was said about why we were going in was not in fact true. That documentary was posted on iTunes via the Rachel Maddow Show’s Podcast, and since she always asks people to post her show, and videos of it online I decided to post that entire documentary on my YouTube channel. It has since gotten about 100,000 views, and has filled my email with some incredibly angry YouTube comments from all kinds of people… I mean, angry stuff…

*By the way, I don’t just watch liberal stuff… I really can’t help but watch anything and everything I can get my hands/eyes on. I watch/listen to: The O’Reilly Factor, Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, Real Time with Bill Maher, and others when I can. I like things other than politics, this is just part of my rhetorical diet to know what’s out there.

Anyway: I want to note that I am not a “Truther” (I don’t think that the United State Government was behind 9-11, so let’s just get that out of the way…), I do however think that this war was a war of choice, and that it was mismanaged, which I think is rather well voiced by documentaries like “No End In Sight” (posted at the bottom of this).

Hubris” addresses the issue of WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction), and this new documentary goes into some of the reasons why the makers of the film believe our government wanted to go. I don’t can’t speak to it’s legitimacy, and I don’t think that Mrs. Maddow is unbiased. I do however really appreciate that she presents sources, and gives room for actual debate, rather than just pure ad hominem. If you’d like to give some feedback that would be great – but the reason why I decided to post this second video (Why We Did It) was to keep the videos tied together, and because it might help us hold a conversation about reasons why we might not want to be so quick to go to war again anytime soon without more checks and balances (i.e.: Iran, Syria, Ukraine). And if you’d like to check in on the conflict going on in Ukraine feel free to click anywhere on this sentence.

Part 2
“Why We Did It”

Part 1
“Hubris”

“No End In Sight”

Have Recent Geo-Political Issues Spiked Your Interest? How About A Quick Refresher? – WWII

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With all of the news going on in the Ukraine, and people seeming to have a spiked interest in geo-politics it seemed to me to be a good time for a short history lesson. So, let’s start with this one: World War II

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