Small Government: When 307,999,999 People Can’t Agree

A funny thing is happening on the way to the ballot box. Voters of all stripes decry the excesses of big government. The reflexive complaint from both ends of the political spectrum, although voiced most loudly by conservatives and tea drinkers, is that big government is inherently bad, a foregone conclusion needing no evidence for proof. It’s a lot like religion that way. “I believe in God, so therefore there must be a God.” “I believe big government is evil, so therefore it must be true.”

It’s curious that the louder the screams about government size, the fewer practical suggestions the screamers give regarding how to make it smaller. There’s the all or nothing crowd – the government shouldn’t do anything but maintain an army. Or, the “limited” governmental types who want to lop off entire government departments, like the Department of Education, Federal Reserve, or Department of Homeland (In)Security. But, there’s precious little in the way of a platform to explain how we’ll reach this government nirvana.

Saying No is Fun
You might expect voters wouldn’t clamor for details. After all, it’s great fun to go watch Glenn Beck scream political science screeds or wave protest signs or accuse people of being anti-Christ socialists. It’s also great to campaign and hear the yelps of Grizzly Mommas in full-throated rapture about how wonderful you are. But the day in and day out grind of actually governing or even setting goals … not so much. In other words, the universal Republican “plan” for everything – “NO” – gives voters, candidates, and sitting politicians the chance to be righteous without the responsibilities of righteousness.

Come to think of it, that’s a little like some religious folks too.

There are roughly 308 million citizens in the US. That means there are at least 308 million opinions on how to reduce the government. Farmers kind of like crop subsidies, especially if their name is Farmer ConAgra. Some people are really behind “drill baby, drill”, without the inconvenient fact that without government regulation, a well might one day pop up in their backyard.

“Take that you NIMBY bastards!”

The “local levelites” don’t want an Islamic center in Manhattan, but are unwilling to accept the decisions of the local planning commission. And Reaganites complain, for example that transportation decisions be made on a state-by-state basis. However, they don’t seem to realize that building a road is building a road whether Uncle Sam funds it or your state increases taxes to offset the downsizing of Federal tax dollars. And, the private enterprisers would be the loudest to complain if RoadCo ran the highways and every country lane and freeway in their state started charging tolls.

Immutable Laws of Government
Americans need to understand a few immutable laws of government and human nature. First, nobody wants a bigger government. Second, everybody wants a smaller government so long as it gets smaller at someone else’s expense. Third, everyone wants the government to work. And fourth, those elected will become “inside” professional politicians as soon as they take their hand off the swearing-in Bible. They will be in your business for good and ill from then on as a result. This is especially true if you want the government to decide who gets married, who serves in the armed forces, who gets government assistance, and dozens of other meat and potatoes governmental decisions that must be made to support your idea of how smaller government should stay out of your life.

American individualism is a great strength. It’s the engine that drove the idea of American exceptionalism in the last century. But, when individualists forget there’s such a thing as shared goals and common needs that strength becomes a drag on the country.

Especially when you and the other 307,999,999 of us can’t agree on just what small government means.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

To Beat or Not to Beat, For O’Donnell There is No Question

It’s one thing to burn a Quran. It’s another when a cracker like Glenn Beck claims to take back the civil rights movement. It’s still another to advocate exercising Second Amendment rights on your political opponents if your Cult de Tea doesn’t get its way. But this, this is a national outrage…

Delaware GOP Senate hopeful, Christine O’Donnell, is … against … (wait for it) … masturbation.

It’s, “lusting in your heart,” dontcha know. The same as adultery. A mortal sin committed directly against God and whatever imaginary playmate you’re watching on your internal DVD player. You know, the same God that John Ensign, Newt Gingrich, and any number of other sinners of both parties insultingly slapped in the gob when they committed actual adultery.

I wonder if it’s masturbatory adultery if you lust after your spouse. Is it any different if you lust after your same sex partner? How about some heavy petting with that golden retriever next door? – but I digress.

Her charge must be true. Moose Mama, Sarah Palin, has endorsed O’Donnell and if there was ever a masturbation expert, it’s Moosilini. After all, back when she was just a shrill harpy of a Wasilla housewife, she had a witch doctor cast aside her demons. While he was casting out the demons, he surely must’ve gone after those impure thoughts she had about the First Dood and those hunky snowmobile racers he’s always binging home.

In a world chock full of distasteful and awful things it’s hard to imagine a world without a little pud-polishin’ or nub-rubbin’. I assume Christine’s against drinking and drugs, so that leaves one’s only relief at church – where the priests or pastors are too busy twiddling kids and church secretaries  to busy themselves with something so distracting as prayer or comfort to their fellow sinners.

And the Imams? Just forget about them. Who knows what depravity they and their honey-drunk, next-life virgins get up to?

Denigrating masturbation is like burning the flag. Both are revered symbols of our nation. They even have similar Constitutional roots. The First Amendment guarantees free speech (of which flag burning has been found to be) and I can tell you from personal experience that speech flowing from the throes of lust is very free, if not a bit dirty in a boom chicka wow wow sort of way.

When will these constant threats to our personal freedoms end? It seems like O’Donnell wants to start a War on Christmas Whacking or something. All America needs are a few good death panels and some Johnson’s Baby Oil to retain our title of World’s Only Superpower. Our country’s strength is in its national groin.  A groin strong enough to stand up to the sexually repressed Taliban, those filthy gays, and those few who enjoy a little pony play (NSFW) from time to time.

As I write this post, I’m looking at pictures of both Christine and Sarah, trying to divine what drives their lunacy. It seems that …

“You know, that prim schoolmarm vibe they both have is kind of attractive. Hmm, I never noticed that before. Those smiles. Those sexy glasses. The snappy tight, but not too tight, clothing and the come-hither winks. They’re babes. I’d hit that in a New York minute if …”

OH CRAP! I’ve committed virtual adultery!

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Dear Glenn Beck : When Did We Lose Our Honor?

Dear Mr. Beck: You say that you want to restore America's honor?

Wonderful! Let me help you! 

When exactly did Americans lose their honor?

Did they lose it when a black man was elected President? Or did they lose it when the Republicans first voted for their own self-interest rather than for the American people? Did we lose it ten years ago, when we elected a man of Bush's exemplary paragon of intellectual caliber?

Did we lose it when Obama tried to save the country from total economic collapse with a stimulus, or did we lose it when Bush the Younger destroyed an economic surplus, and gave us a deficit, compounded with two unnecessary and unaffordable wars, a housing bubble, Guantanamo, and the worst economic disaster since The Great Depression?

Did we lose our honor because we finally have a healthcare system that is a good beginning for the many poor who will be needing it in the years to come? Or did we lose it when businesses began to downsize, and outsourced jobs abroad for cheaper labor? 

Did we lose our honor because some people did not like the way President Obama handled the Gulf oil spill, which incidentally started through the criminal negligence of BP and Transocean? Or did we lose it during the Bush administration's inexcusable and atrocious response given to Katrina? Or was it when FEMA became gutted and privatized by Bush?

Did we lose our honor when the Democrats saved the auto industry, or did we lose it when we stopped building things in this country, and now depend on cheap slave labor from abroad?

Mr. Beck, we need to restore our honor, it's true. But you are far wide of the mark on the cause for restoring our honor. You speak of fluffy generalities like "faith, hope and charity," But your rally was funded by men who lied, cheated, stole and killed for money.  

I thought we turned the corner on January 20, 2009. We are trying to restore our nation's honor. You just don't want to see it!

The Dying Gasps of Nativism

Here's the latest video from Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll of New Left Media interviewing attendees at Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally held this past Saturday in Washington. 

The sentiments being expressed are really no different than say the ones that were expressed at this McCain/Palin rally (video at The Guardian) in Colorado Springs back in late October 2008. The Guardian, at the time, wrote of Palin's adoring crowd that day that "beneath the cheers and applause, there was a lingering mood of defeat - a sense that it was all over, and that as much as anything, this was a goodbye rally for the woman who just months ago had so energised social conservatives." There's no question that "lingering mood of defeat" on the right has over the past two years been further transformed into a Lernaean Hydra of ignorance, anger, bigotry, righteous indignation, fear, sheer stupidity and irrationality.

That these people sincerely hold the belief that Obama is a racist Muslim Socialist born in Kenya underscores the influence of the right-wing propagandist machine that is Fox News and the right-wing blogs. Today a "hydra-like problem" or "hydra" refers to a multifaceted problem that seems incapable of step-by-step solution, or to one that worsens upon conventional attempts to solve it, for example, attempts to suppress a particular piece of information resulting in it being disseminated even more widely.

And we clearly face a hydra-like problem when it comes to the right-wing echo chamber. Let's face it, they have more money and their own media empire, a purveyor of misinformation like no other on the planet. But as Hercules did slay the Lernaean Hydra, so too we will slay the multi-headed serpent that is the nativist right with the sword that is demographics.

Back in 1998 at a speech at Portland State University, President Clinton noted:

Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time ... [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.

Indeed in 2001, California, the nation's most populous state, joined New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia where non-Hispanic whites are also in the minority. And in 2005, Texas became the fourth state to have a non-white majority population. As of 2008, the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents has fallen below 60 percent in Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Mississippi. 

In thinking about Arizona's anti-immigration SB 2281, my thoughts are that the law is really not much more than an pathetic attempt at ethnic cleansing, a last ditch effort to drive Hispanics from the state. According to a Brookings Institution report, Arizona's Hispanic population has shot up 180 percent in the last 20 years, with the white population dropping from 72 percent to 58 percent. Hispanics account for about one-third of the state's 6.6 million people, and 90 percent of Hispanics under age 18 were born in the US. Even if all immigration from Mexico were halted tomorrow, the high birthrate of this young population would continue Arizona's population boom and its demographic shift. Arizona will become majority-minority state by 2020.

According to the US Census Bureau, the dominance of non-Hispanic white people, who today account for two-thirds of Americans, will be whittled away, falling steadily to less than half in 2042 and just 46 percent by 2050. In the opposite trajectory, those who describe themselves as Hispanic, African-American, Asian and Native American will increase in proportion from about a third now to 54 percent by 2050.

Such a rapid demographical shift is in tune with trends that we have been seeing for quite some time, but it is happening much faster than experts had predicted 12 years ago when President Clinton gave his speech. When I hear Tea Baggers talk about "taking back their country," I can't help but think that what they really mean is reversing that demographical shift. I suspect as that demographical shift takes increasing hold we will continue to be subjected to the dying gasps of nativism but they are grasping at straws if they think that the demographic shift can be reversed.

It's game, set, match for the nativist right but whether the non-nativist right can make inroads into the growing Hispanic electorate will depend on whether they amend their vitriol on immigration issues. For Democrats, it is certainly a political imperative that we enact a comprehensive immigration reform and remain attuned to the social justice concerns of most Hispanics but more importantly, I think, we need to demonstrate that our basic values include tolerance and cultural pluralism. These are the values to which President Clinton was referring to back in 1998 and these are the values that will ultimately assign the nativist right to irrelevancy.

Why The Beck Event Didn’t Need Politics

Palin likened the rally participants to the civil rights activists from 1963. She said the same spirit that helped them overcome oppression, discrimination and violence would help this group as well."We are worried about what we face. Sometimes, our challenges seem insurmountable," Palin said. "Look around you. You're not alone." - Yahoo News

Many of the pundits and talking heads were concerned today about what the motive was for Glenn Beck’s rally over the weekend. Many questioned why Mr. Beck who has been one of the staunchest critics of this president would hold a political rally without the politics? By all accounts the rally was a cross between a revival meeting and a church picnic. There were no political speeches extolling the shortcomings of this president and his administration. There were no references to liberalism, socialism, or Obamacare in any of the speeches. So with one of the largest captive audiences in recent memory why was there no demagoguery by two of the best in the business?

The answer is really very simple. All one has to do is look at the demographics of the rally goers to understand that there was no need for these types of speeches. The majority of the participants were white, over 50, and evangelicals. With this group there was no need for over the top rhetoric, racists signs, or t-shirts. Just as the Pope does not have to detail the tenets of the Catholic faith during Mass at St. Peters Basilica neither did Glenn Beck have to give the tenets to those gathered at the rally? Is there any doubt what the political leanings of those people in that demographic would be? The people who showed up at that rally are conservative right-wing voters and their politics is their religion. In their minds there is no separation of religion and state or religion and politics. America in their minds is a Christian country and anyone who does not share their brand of Christianity is an outsider. One of the reasons that President Obama’s religion is questioned and is treated with skepticism is because he does not espouse or demonstrate their brand of Christianity. So we get “He says he is a Christian and I take him at his word.”

When groups of like minded individuals get together there are certain ideas or values that don’t require being spoken. Your very presence at the event signals your agreement with the group’s positions on politics, social values, and community mores. We are God’s people and everyone else are godless infidels who are not worthy of our compassion but instead they are worthy of our contempt. The thing to remember with group dynamics is that certain words can carry special meaning that the majority of the group understands so even a non-political rally can carry political significance. So instead of talking about liberals or foreigners we talk about those who share our version of religion and those who don’t. To the folks in the crowd the meaning is crystal clear and there is no difference.

"When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." - Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun

The question that continues not to be asked today is not why more people think that President Obama is a Muslim today than when he was elected. The question that needs to be asked is in a country where we supposedly have freedom of religion why does it matter what religion he is. So we have these endless conversations on the television about what the poll numbers mean to the President’s ability to do his job and no conversation about the hypocrisy of this whole conversation. The thing that should scare the hell out of all Americans who value freedom about the Glenn Beck rally is that today it is the liberals tomorrow it will be the Methodists or the Catholics. A prime example of this is the fall-out from some Christian religious groups that stated following the rally that because Glenn Beck is a Mormon he is unfit and offering a false gospel. You see that once the hate mongering starts it becomes contagious and it will infiltrate and contaminate everyone it comes in contact with.

What Glenn Beck was attempting to do was to marry religion with politics. He is seeking to rally the troops under the cross, the flag, and oh yeah a little gold wouldn’t hurt. America has a history of following these Elmer Gantry wannabes promoting that good ole time religion. The problem with these charlatans is that their version of ole time religion is not very old. I truly believe that no group has done more to divide the Church in the history of the Church than the Evangelicals. According to them God is constantly providing new revelations that only they can hear and decipher which of course makes it next to impossible to dispute. Glenn Beck decries the liberation theology of others yet as you can see from Ms. Palin’s remarks that this is exactly what they are promoting only it is liberation for those who are the most liberated in the country. Who is more liberated than middle-aged white people? What they don’t realize is Beck, Palin and their rich cronies are the ones who are oppressing them.

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. - Anne Lamott

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