2008 reasons to elect a progressive president in 2008
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  • Community

    1. The progressive vision of community in America is a democratic vision in which everyone has an opportunity to participate, regardless of economic power and social position.

    2. Two years after the 2004 election, how are the pro-Kerry and pro-Bush states faring? On a variety of measures, it seems that the relatively progressive states that voted in favor of John Kerry for President are doing relatively well. The right wing states that voted to re-elect George W. Bush, on the other hand, just can't seem to get their act together.

      The good life is something that both progressives and right wingers would like to have. To see which group is doing better at achieving the good life, I took a look at the statistics compiled by the people at Morgan Quitno. It just so happens that Morgan Quitno puts together an index of statistics that assesses livability: The 2006 Livable State Award.

      The livability index is compiled from many statistics, ranging from suicide rate to median household income. Job growth, crime rate, teenage birth rate, and even the average number of sunny days in a year were taken into account.

      Progressive New Hampshire was found to be the most livable state in 2006, followed by Minnesota, also progressive. The least livable state in the USA was found to be Louisiana, followed by Mississippi, both right wing states.

      These states are the outliers of dramatic success and dramatic failure, but what about the rest? The distinction between progressive states and right wing states in 2006 is dramatic. Progressive states in which a majority voted for John Kerry had an average ranking of 19. Right wing states in which a majority voted for George W. Bush, on the other hand, had a much lower ranking in general, with an average of 29.

      If you want a good life, your chances are much better if you decide to live in a state where progressive politics dominates. If you choose to live in a right wing state, the chances are that you'll be more unhappy than the average American. Looking at these statistics, the choice is easy to make. I hope, for the sake of America's happiness, that voters choose to elect a progressive President in 2008. (Source: Morgan Quitno Press Livability State Rankings, 2006)

    3. America's community values are displayed on the largest scale possible by the way that the United States of America interacts with the community of nations. If America follows the path that right wing politicians propose, the USA won't participate in the international community much at all.

      Right wingers seem to despise the idea of a true international community that comes together to discuss and solve problems. They propose, instead, that the United States keep the power to act all on its own in the world, without restraint from any international governing power.

      This absurd notion that America should not participate in organizations that set international standards for acceptable national conduct often takes the form of paranoid claims about conspiracies to take away American sovereignty. Republican Presidential candidate John Cox, for example, writes on his campaign web site, "John Cox will always work to maintain our national sovereignty, and will fight against those who would hand our independence and power over to unelected international bureaucrats."

      Who is proposing handing over the independence of the United States to unelected international bureaucrats? No one that I can see. In 2008, America needs to reject the kind of anti-community paranoia that right wing candidates like John Cox promote. (Source: Cox2008.com, as of November 2006)

    4. In the fall of 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. George W. Bush promised the levees would be rebuilt, and "our goal is to get the work done quickly." He would "do what it takes."

      In the winter of 2006, the effort to rebuild the New Orleans levees is slowing down to a crawl. An engineer who works with the Bush-led Federal Emergency Management Agency says that "We should have been turning dirt months ago." But it's not happening. Under the leadership of George W. Bush, necessary work has not been completed. Let's elect a progressive president who will make sure the work gets done. (Sources: Associated Press, August 21, 2006 and New York Times, December 4, 2006)

    5. What is security?

      Stop the mental train you're running right now, the one that equates security simply with a lack of being physically attacked. You're running on the Republican script.

      "Security" has a broader meaning than simply the lack of physical attack by furriners. The American Heritage Dictionary's primary definition of security is "freedom from risk or danger." As we all know, or at least all should know, empirical data tells us that there are much more salient sources of risk and danger than physical attack by furriners.

      As the most recently available data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics shows, in 2002 695,754 people died from heart disease, 73,119 people died from diabetes, and 56,866 people died from cancers of the colon, rectum and anus. Oh, I know, "anus" is such a nasty word, but cancer of the anus is nastier than the word itself. Death from heart disease, diabetes or these cancers is not pleasant.

      The sad thing is that many of these deaths are preventable, given their strong empirical connection to obesity. As Americans become more and more obese, the likelihood that they will die one of these unpleasant deaths becomes stronger. The security of hundreds of thousands of Americans a year is in peril.

      George W. Bush's reaction to this security threat? A cut of more than fifty million dollars to the Public Health Service's program to prevent and control obesity. (Sources: New York Times, February 5, 2005; Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2004-2005)

    6. Doctors and other medical professionals are agents of national security; the resources they expend to prevent chronic disease make our nation more broadly secure even if we care nothing for the individual people who get sick, as a healthier, livelier nation leads to a smaller future health care burden and a greater economic productivity.

      However, as we all know or all should know, the number of doctors in the United States is comparatively low. According to OECD data for 2001, a surprising number of industrialized nations outstrip the United States in the number of doctors around to take care of people. Looking just at Europe: Greece, Italy, Belgium, the Slovak Republic, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Spain, and Luxembourg all have a greater number of doctors per thousand people than the United States.

      Meanwhile, 72% of hospital administrators in 2004 reported a shortage of nursing staff. This nursing shortage is not inevitable. A December 2003 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that nursing programs declined admission to 11,000 qualified applicants because there wasn't enough budgetary support for faculty to teach them.

      George W. Bush's approach to protecting this source of national security? A cut of well over $100 million in the budget for training nurses and dentists, and a cut of $100 million for the training of doctors. (Sources: New York Times, February 5, 2005; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, , 2001; American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2004; NurseWeek, August 2, 2004)

    7. The progressive vision of America is of a community that accepts people from different backgrounds and gives them the freedom to interact with each other while still retaining their particular identities. The opposing vision of American community supported by the right wing is represented by the multiple death threats received by Antonio Swad, the owner of the Pizza Patron chain of restaurants.

      What did Mr. Swad do that earned him threats of murder from angry right wing activists? He decided to allow cashiers at Pizza Patron restaurants to accept Mexican pesos as well as United States dollars. From the right wing perspective, Mr. Swad has violated the integrity of the community of the United States of America, even though it's quite legal to accept foreign currency as payment within the United States. The freedom to accept foreign currency is part of the free market that right wingers say that they support, but quickly abandon when free market forces run in opposition to their bigoted attitudes. Businesses near the border with Canada accept Canadian money all the time, and right wingers don't protest against that.

      What's really got right wingers bothered is that they don't want to accept Hispanics into the American community. The right wingers' view of American community is similar to that of an old-fashioned country club, where the community is defined by who is not allowed to join.

      Progressives refuse to indulge in the kind of exclusionary paranoia that contributes to ridiculous things like death threats against restaurant owners for nothing more than accepting a wide range of money in compensation for services rendered. We need a progressive President who understands that American community is strongest when it is open. (Source: News Hounds, January 13, 2007)

    8. America's right wingers start with the demand that no one except a member of their chosen religion, Christianity, be allowed to become President of the United States. Of course, it's not enough for them that a presidential candidate is a Christian. The candidate has to have had two Christian parents, too. Also, the candidate's name has to sound like a Christian name. Otherwise, the candidate cannot be allowed to become President, they say. The candidate is also disqualified, according to their standards, if he or she has attended school with a large number of non-Christians.

      This is the kind of rubbish that the right wing is desperately throwing at Barack Obama to try to defeat his campaign for President.

      First, the right wingers started out with Barack Obama's name. They pointed out that Obama sounds like Osama - well, except for the fact that a b sounds nothing at all like an s, even for someone who lisps. Then, they discovered that Obama's middle name is Hussein - a name shared with the executed former leader of Iraq.

      Next, the right wingers talk about how Barack Obama's father was a Muslim from Kenya, suggesting that Barack Obama is a Muslim because his father was one. Right wing commentator Debbie Schlussel writes, "In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he's a Christian, but they do not."

      The right wing attacks reach their highest fever pitch by saying that because Barack Obama attended a school for a few years where most, but not all, of the students were Muslim, Obama must an adherent of Islam himself. "We are fighting the war of our lives against Islam," writes Schlussel. "Where will his loyalties be?"

      It's not enough for the right wingers that Barack Obama says he is a Christian, is married to a Christian, is raising his children as Christians, and attends a Christian church. Because of Obama's name, Obama's father, and one of Obama's schools, the right wing denounces Barack Obama as not Christian enough. The Religious Right demands that Americans should be allowed to become President only if they only they are Christians who are the children of Christians, with names like John Smith, who have not had any substantial contact with non-Christians.

      We progressive see things differently. We follow the Constitution. When an American born a citizen reaches the proper age, that American can run for President. There is no religious requirement. It doesn't matter who your father is. Your name doesn't have to be of European origin. Finally, as we see it, having spent some time with people of another culture as a child just might prove to be a useful experience for a person who wants to become President of the United States.

      Progressives recognize that the American community is a diverse community. We don't fight against that diversity. We embrace it. (Sources: Times Online, January 20, 2007; DebbieSchlussel.com, January 18, 2007; Media Matters for America, January 19, 2007)

    9. These days, community is a lot larger than just a neighborhood, a village, or even a nation. People speak of the international community, because the barriers of distance and political boundaries no longer separate people in the way that they used to.

      In this global community, we Americans need to consider our collective reputation. Unfortunately, right wing politicians don't seem to care much about such things. As a result, under right wing leadership, the reputation of the United States within the international community has been greatly diminished.

      In a recent international survey conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation, 51 percent of respondents said that the United States is a negative influence on the rest of the world. Only 30 percent said that the United States is a positive influence.

      In these ratings, the United States was near the bottom of the bucket. Only Iran and Israel received more negative assessments of their national reputations. Progressives are concerned with improving America's reputation, but right wing politicians are more concerned with having their own way. We've seen where the self-centered approach of the right wing leads us. It's time for a better way. (Source: Associated Press, March 5, 2007)

    10. The decision by right wing politicians to push for an unnecessary war in Iraq has made communities across America vulnerable to violence. The violence these communities have become more vulnerable to is not from Al Quaida, however, but from homegrown American criminals. The reason: The war in Iraq has pulled huge numbers of military reservists away from their ordinary jobs, to go fight in Iraq.

      The Washington Monthly explains, "The Bush administration's choice to go to war without a broader coalition has put a huge strain on U.S. military... And large numbers of reservists are cops... Worse still, departments are barred by law from replacing reservists while they're away on military duty--leaving short- handed departments with no option beyond hoping, hard, that they get their people back soon."

      The failed war fought over there is making our communities less secure over here. (Source: Washington Monthly, September 2003)

    11. Bill Richardson certainly speaks the language of political theatre. The San Francisco Chronicle explains:
      Richardson, known as a boisterous character throughout his career as a member of Congress, an ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. energy secretary, also gave a frank assessment of his political strategy for the presidential campaign. He said that the accelerated Democratic nominating process with early primaries in large states such as New York, California and Florida that have significant Hispanic populations will give him an advantage.

      He spoke repeatedly in Spanish, without offering an English translation, proudly declaring: "I am the first Latino to run for president in the Democratic Party."

      At one point, asked a question about his heritage, Richardson offered to answer the question in either English or Spanish then burst into French.

      That's theatre all right, but Bill Richardson can back up the show with reality. The man is fluent in Spanish as well as English and has a working capacity in French, enabling him to speak directly to a fairly large portion of the world population. Add this to Richardson's experience as a diplomat in the United Nations and his work as an envoy to Asia and Africa, and the man spans the globe in his capacity to make progress in international relations.

      Outreach to the rest of the world is an important part of the progressive agenda, a part Richardson can play well. It's a part that none of the old, white, stolid, English-only Republican candidates can come close to. They'd rather continue the Bush agenda of closing America off from the rest of the world, save for the occasional volley of bombs. It's time to bring the Bush agenda to a close. It's time for us to embrace the use of diplomacy on the world stage again. And Bill Richardson, whether in the lead role as president or as part of a progressive supporting cast, is just the sort of person I'd like to see America put on that stage again. (Sources: San Francisco Chronicle May 22, 2007; Washington Post Clinton administration profiles, 1998)

    12. One of the problems with the right wing's fearful attitude toward cultural diversity is that right wing activists aren't in touch with a broad base of people. The result is that they're prone to some pretty ridiculous misunderstandings of current events. Consider, for example, the person at the Conservative Political Action Conference who was overheard explaining to another right wing activist that, "People in Canada are so supportive of gay rights because there's no hockey right now and guys are just sitting around and talking about their feelings." Most people can recognize this analysis as absurd. In the right wing world, however, such ideas are thought to make perfect sense. (Source: Campus Progress, February, 2005)

    13. It has been three years now since George W. Bush was re-elected as President of the United States of America. In the aftermath of the 2004 election, President Bush said he was going to work to overcome the strong divisions between Americans that had grown during his first term in office. Bush said that he was going to reach out to the people who voted against him, and offer a government under which all Americans could unite.

      "A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation," Bush said. "We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America."

      I was feeling awfully sore at Bush and the Republicans, but I decided that, if the right wing would really offer a platform of unity, it might be worthwhile to support it, for the sake of the country. For such a platform, I suggested the following actions as a gesture with which Bush could regain the trust of American progressives:

      • Admit that it was a mistake to invade Iraq
      • Push Congress to ratify the Kyoto Treaty and then sign it
      • Support the International War Crimes Tribunal
      • Provide full federal funding for stem cell research
      • No new tax cuts for the rich
      • Withdraw your pledge to place more judges in the mold of Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court, and nominate true moderates in their place
      • End government funding of religious programs
      • Reform the Patriot Act
      • Fully abandon the Total Information Awareness program, in all its forms throughout the government
      • Provide full funding for the No Child Left Behind mandates
      • Stop bashing gays and lesbians
      • Stop the torture of prisoners by Americans everywhere

      This wasn't a progressive platform of unity. It was merely a path through which Republicans could seek common ground, by ending the most outrageous of their attacks against the American traditions of freedom and tolerance. It was a middle ground.

      Now, years later, George W. Bush and the Republicans have not taken even one of the steps that I suggested could lead to political reconciliation in America. Even after the two most divisive American elections in living history, the Republicans have continued to pursue a course of right wing extremists that offends the majority of Americans, not just progressives.

      The betrayed Republican promise of unity is yet another reason to elect a progressive President in 2008. (Sources: Online NewsHour, November 13, 2004; Irregular Times, November 4, 2004)

    14. This Sunday, the New York Times ran article with the headline, In Tense Time, Prank Can Look Like a Bomb Scare. The article tells the story of a bunch of high school students who, as a pre-graduation prank, snuck a bunch of alarm clocks into their high school in Montrose, New York, set them all to 9:15 AM, and put duct tape over the clocks' controls so that teachers could not easily shut them off. The idea was that, at 9:15 AM, the alarm clocks would sound all over the school, and high school seniors would get up out of their seats and walk out of classes, celebrating their impending freedom.

      It was a typical high school prank. So, how did the school administration respond? They presumed it was a terrorist attack, and ended up having the students involved brought up on felony charges of placing false bombs.

      One student justified this overreaction by saying, "I think in these times when you have Virginia Tech and Columbine and all these things, it unfortunately can't be taken like a joke anymore." Of course, the attacks at Virginia Tech and Columbine were done by people shooting guns, not by people carrying alarm clocks. This is what the American state of Homeland Insecurity has come to: Details don't matter any more. Terrorism is the default presumption for anything out of the ordinary. Jokes now must be regarded as deadly weapon.

      An alarm clock is not a "false bomb". It's an alarm clock. An alarm clock with duct tape on it does not look like a bomb, unless the person looking at it is paranoid. It is true that a bomb could be made to look like an alarm clock with duct tape on it, but then again, a bomb could be made to look like a teddy bear, or a potted plant, or a textbook. So, will teddy bears, potted plants and textbooks be banned from high schools next?

      When right wingers see a story like the one about the alarm clock felony by high school students in Montrose, New York, they regard the action as a part of a righteous campaign of vigilence. Progressives recognize it as a sign of fear that's gone far beyond sensible security into the realm of absurd anxiety. (Source: New York Times, June 17, 2007)

    15. The FBI is asking scuba instructors to be on the lookout for scuba diving students who are asking about how to drive underwater vehicles in murky water or go diving in sewer pipes.

      Why is the FBI asking scuba instructors to be on the lookout for people asking for such odd sorts of information? Is there a plot by terrorists to attack America through scuba infiltration of sewer pipes or other murky water invasions? Does the FBI have any tips on people planning any illegal activities at all in such environments?

      No. It turns out that the FBI admits that it has no reason to believe that any attacks using scuba gear in these situations is being planned. They just thought that scuba instructors ought to be on the lookout, just in case.

      Well, has the FBI thought about asking electrical companies to be on the lookout for squirrels gathering walnuts, as if for throwing, around electrical transformers? Have they thought to ask people living near streams to be on the lookout for suspicious beavers chewing on the bottom of telephone poles? Have FBI investigators warned carnivals about people asking whether people could suffocate on cotton candy, or how much damage a ferris wheel could do to a small town if it became detached all of a sudden and started running around?

      I can imagine these threats, but I don't have any reason to believe that they're real. Likewise, the FBI can imagine scuba diving attacks through sewer tunnels or other murky water, but has no reason to believe that such threats are at all real.

      The Federal Bureau of Investigations ought to be investigating real crimes and real threats, not imagining outlandish crimes that might be planned by someone some time in the future, and going around the country warning people about the potential danger. Progressives recognize the difference. Apparently, the right wingers who currently control our government don't. (Source: USA Today, June 28, 2007)

    16. While giving testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, outgoing Surgeon General of the United States Richard Carmona described his experience on the job as burdened by a unprecedented degree of partisanship throughout the government. Carmona explained that when he asked his predecessors to compare the professional climate under George W. Bush with the circumstances they dealt with, "They said that they had all been challenged and had to fight political battles in order to do their job as 'the doctor of the nation.' But each agreed that never had they seen Washington, D.C. so partisan or a new Surgeon General so politically challenged and marginalized as during my tenure."

      When the politicians in control of the federal government have even made the practice of medicine subject to a right wing political agenda, it's a sign that the quality of basic community services across America are being sacrificed. Politics is a fine thing when limited to its appropriate scope. Politics ought not, however, to limit the work of professionals in our communities who depend upon open and accurate access to the most recent information available. (Source: Testimony of Dr. Richard Carmona, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, July 10, 2007)

    17. I was at first disinclined to write about the fact that a Hindu chaplain was shouted down by three protesters while offering morning prayers before the U.S. Senate. I mean, you can find three people who are nutty enough to do anything, so it would be a stretch to draw any conclusions from their act alone - which was to protest the prayer by a non-Christian before the Senate. "This is an abomination!" they shouted as they were removed from the Senate chamber. But it was only three people who felt that it was OK for a Christian prayer to be offered before the Senate, but not a Hindu prayer, right? Right?

      Wrong. It turns out that as word spread that a Hindu chaplain would be offering the Senate's morning prayer, even though the chaplain indicated it would be "universal in approach," a large fundamentalist organization called the American Family Association started a petition drive in opposition to his presence in the Senate and asked followers to "take action." After the shouted-down prayer, the A.F.A.'s wire service (OneNewsNow) put out not one, not two, but three press releases stating opposition to the ability of a Hindu to speak before the Senate because his theology was not Christian.

      The AFA and its wire service were not the only Christian fundamentalist organization to protest a chaplain's invocation because he was not referring to the correct religion. The Reverend Flip Benham of Operation Rescue / Operation Save America declared, "It was a shocking event for all of us Christians. For all of these years we have honored the God of our Founding Fathers. It wasn't a group of Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims that came here. It was Christians." Through the Christian NewsWire, Benham declared:

      Ante Pavkovic, Kathy Pavkovic, and Kristen Sugar were all arrested in the chambers of the United States Senate as that chamber was violated by a false Hindu god. The Senate was opened with a Hindu prayer placing the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the One True God, Jesus Christ. This would never have been allowed by our Founding Fathers.

      "Not one Senator had the backbone to stand as our Founding Fathers stood. They stood on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! There were three in the audience with the courage to stand and proclaim, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' They were immediately removed from the chambers, arrested, and are in jail now. God bless those who stand for Jesus as we know that He stands for them."
      Pastor Wiley Drake, a former Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, used the same Christian NewsWire to declare:

      "When not one of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate would object on the record, and in proper order, the opening of the U.S. Senate July 12, 2007, Christian observers had no choice but to speak from the gallery of the Senate. Had I been present I too would have stood and objected since none of the Senators would. I believe this was led of The Holy Spirit of God, and I also believe He is pleased with the action of His children and Ambassadors from The Kingdom of Heaven."

      Ante and Kathy Pavkovic along with their daughter Kristin Sugar politely spoke out against this and were arrested and jailed for disturbing the U.S. Senate.

      "What a shame that not one of our Christian Senators would object to this ungodly action." The Hindu Chaplain said............

      "We meditate on that transcendental deity supreme who is inside the heart of us and inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heavens"

      What about "One Nation Under God????" The real God our Nation was founded upon.

      We have freedom of religion in America but not the freedom to invoke a false god to visit our U.S. Senate.

      "When Ante and Kathy Pavkovic with their daughter Kristen Sugar were arrested for speaking out they became hero's of the faithful in my opinion."

      That's right. In Benham and Drake's eyes, there's no "freedom to invoke a false god" that they think the Founding Fathers wouldn't have liked, but only the freedom to invoke a Christian God.

      But wait, there's more! Yes, fundamentalist Christian organizations are coming out of the woodwork today to protest that Hindu religion is impermissible and intolerable in the United States of America. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council chimed in with his explanation of why it was inappropriate for a Hindu to officiate in a Christian nation:

      Does that mean it is appropriate for him to open the nation's highest elected body in prayer? I think not. This prayer is more than ceremony, although many may treat it as such. It is a plea to God, exemplified by Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall, who, on the eve of Independence Day 1947, prayed, "May it ever be understood that our liberty is under God and can be found nowhere else . . . Let us, as a nation, not be afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way, as the only nation on earth that came into being for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.' We know that we shall be true to the pilgrim dream when we are true to the God they worshiped. To the extent that America honors Thee, wilt Thou bless America, and keep her true as Thou has kept her free... Amen."

      No one can legitimately challenge the fact that the God America refers to in the pledge, our national motto, and other places is the monotheistic God of the Jewish and Christian faith.

      As you can see, multiple Christian fundamentalist organizations, not just three lone individuals, have made their stance plain: Hindu religion does not belong in the Senate - only Christianity (or possibly Judaism) is an appropriate religion for the state. These organizations make their desire for Christian theocracy - rule of politics not just by religion in general, but by Christianity in particular - clear.

      The declarations of the fundamentalists brings into stark relief the problem with the promotion of religion by government. Although Christian after Christian has declared that the invocation of "God" in overwhelmingly Christian Senate prayers, or the inclusion of "One Nation Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, or the legally mandated use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on coins is harmless, trivial, or even religion-neutral, it clearly is not. Just try suggesting that "In God We Trust" excludes the secular, or try questioning the necessity of the phrase "One Nation Under God," and see what happens. The welcoming of a Hindu chaplain to give a Senate prayer was another religious test - a test that the fundamentalist Christians have failed. The agenda of the fundamentalists has been laid bare: to use the power of government to promote not just religiosity, not just faith, not some god, but their religion and no other, their faith and no other, their God and no other.

      The fundamentalists want to use government to establish their particular religion as supreme. If you don't want them to succeed in their efforts, look for candidates who affirm a constitutional commitment to keep parochial Gods out of everybody's government. (Sources: American Family Association Petition #257; One News Now July 12 2007; OneNewsNow July 12 2007; OneNewsNow July 13 2007; USA Today July 13 2007; The Hill July 13 2007; Christian NewsWire July 13 2007; Christian NewsWire July 13 2007; Family Research Council July 13 2007)

    18. America's right wing is determined to close the border between the United States in Mexico, and so has endorsed a plan by the Department of Homeland Security to build a wall on the border, to keep Mexicans from coming into the United States. What the proponents of this wall don't say, however, is that the wall isn't really a single wall at all, but a collection of walls that covers populated areas, but disappears out in the countryside, where people will still be able to walk right over the border without much trouble at all.

      Rendering this series of walls even more uneffective is the fact that the Department of Homeland Security has released information about where the walls are going to be built. That release of information has enabled maps like the one you see below, from the Dallas Morning News, to be published. So, people trying to cross the border into the United States from Mexico will know ahead of time where they should go, and avoid the walls altogether.

      Walls on the borders of the United States cannot be effective if their locations are revealed to the public. Yet, in an open and free society, information of this sort must be available to the public.

      There is a choice that the United States needs to make. Either we are going to try to secure our borders with big walls, like the East Germans did with Berlin, or we are going to remain a free and open society. The two choices cannot be successfully combined.

      Right wingers are choosing to place equivalents of the Berlin Wall along America's borders. Progressives, on the other hand, are choosing to remain a part of the world community. (Source: Dallas Morning News, June 26, 2007)

    19. Why does Mitt Romney hate America? Oh, sure, Mitt Romney says he loves America, but then he comes out with a commercial for his presidential campaign that describes America as "a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions".

      No kidding. Mitt Romney says in one of his campaign commercials that America's children are growing up in "a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions". Well, they're growing up in America, so I guess that means that Mr. Romney believes that America is a cesspool.

      I don't like everything about all aspects of America, but I don't hate America. I'm a father of three children, and I don't see my kids growing up in "a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions". My neighborhood is not a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and incolence and perversions . Our village's school is not "a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions".

      I don't know what kind of weird situation Mitt Romney raised his children in, so that he would tell Americans that they are raising their children in "a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions". Whatever Mitt Romney's personal family problems are, I wish he would keep them to himself, and not try to make the rest of America serve as some kind of therapy for him to deal with his issues.

      America is not "a cesspool of violence and sex and drugs and indolence and perversions", and we should not elect a person to be President who believes that it is. (Source: MittRomney.com)

    20. Sitting in the airport waiting for Homeland Security screening has a wee bonus I get to watch cable news on those little TVs dangling from the ceiling. And so it was oddly enough in airport security that I saw a fleeting news story that has gone otherwise uncovered. At the beginning of the previous week, the Associated Press had published an article detailing new warnings from the Transportation Security Agency of Homeland Security to be on the lookout for terrorist "dry runs" in planning for a new attack on U.S. soil. The basis for this claim? One person's checked baggage contained a nine volt battery, some wires, and a "clay-like substance." Two people had packed blocks of cheese in their bags. And one woman had ice packs with holes in them, containing clay in them!

      The Associated Press article got national coverage, freaking everybody out. But by the next day, the San Diego Tribune had uncovered a local TSA official who said the national TSA was off its rocker; the woman's ice packs had holes in them because they were old, and the "clay" in them was the dried gel that had seeped out the holes. By Saturday, CNN had this woman a non-profit worker in her sixties on the air rolling her eyes that TSA investigators had asked her, "Do you know Osama bin Laden?" She said, "If I really did know Osama bin Laden, do you think I'd answer that question?" People near the checkpoint chuckled when they heard that. CNN contacted a government official who told them that these four cases all checked out fine. And yet the TSA still was sending its breathless warnings out about terrorist dry runs.

      I've had it with a government that seems bent on goading its citizens into a state of unreasonable fear. (Sources: CNN July 28 2007; San Diego Tribune July 25 2007; Associated Press July 25 2007)

    21. The media is going ape over a bridge collapse that has killed perhaps a dozen people with graphics and extended articles. George W. Bush is making a personal visit to survey the scene and wrinkle his brow in a pantomime of care. Congress is appropriating extra money in the wake of the disaster.

      No doubt, the collapse of the bridge is a disaster for those five Americans who are known to have been killed, and for those who know those killed in the event. However, six more American soldiers died in the last day of military action in Iraq, and approximately 130 more Iraqi civilians were killed on the same day. These are deaths which will be repeated tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. And yet in the face of these daily death tolls we still have politicians in Washington who treat policies of war as if they are solutions and not problems.

      There are other disasters we don't see. Consider UNICEF's 2007 State of the World's Children report, which indicates that in 2005 (the most recent year for which data is available) the death rate of children under 5 in the United States was 7 for every 1,000 children. Census Bureau statistics indicate that U.S. population under 5 in 2005 was about 20,300,000 which gives us 142,100 deaths per year. That's a lot of deaths.

      Now, many of those deaths are sadly unpreventable, but some are. You can tell this because the UNICEF report tells us of many nations where the death rate of children under 5 is lower than in the United States. Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, and Japan, for instance, have a death rate of just 4 children per 1,000 under the age of 5. These are all nations with universal health care systems. If the United States were able to lower its death rate for children under 5 from 7 per 1,000 to 4 per 1,000, 81,200 lives could be saved annually.

      Let me say that again. If the United States could become like Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway or Japan, the lives of 81,200 children under the age of five could be saved every year.

      The legislators and executive officials in Washington, DC who are worth their salt know this. But what has been done in the face of these tens of thousands of preventable deaths of young children? This a real disaster, and it's high time we mobilized ourselves to address it.

      (Sources: UNICEF 2007 State of the World's Children; U.S. Census Bureau; New York Times August 4 2007; Associated Press August 4 2007)

    22. The Evangelicals for Mitt web site threw a hissy fit in August 2007, furious that the Republican presidential candidates scheduled a debate for Sunday morning. How dare the Republican candidates discuss political issues, a writer on the pro-Romney site demanded, when church services were being held, and "most of the target audience was singing hymns"?

      Here's a little reminder for the people over at Evangelicals for Mitt: The candidates are running for President of the United States of America, not for Reverend of the United States of America. The candidates should not have to arrange their lives around the schedule of the minority of Americans who go to church.

      It may surprise Evangelicals for Mitt, but yes, most Americans do not attend church regularly. Even the majority of Republicans do not go to church every week.

      Back in 2002, ABC News reported that just 38 percent of Americans claimed to go to church every week. Even among Republicans, only 47 percent went to church on a weekly basis. Church attendance has been trending downwards, so it's reasonable to believe that even fewer Republicans go to church every Sunday now.

      That makes Sunday morning a very good time for the Republicans to hold a debate. Most Republicans will not be at church during that time, and the remainder will be more likely than at any other time during the week to have an open schedule, enabling them to watch.

      There's always something going on that makes it difficult for some people to watch a televised event live. On weeknights, for example, people like myself who have children have to spend a good amount of time getting them fed and off to bed. If the Republicans televised their debate on a weeknight instead of Sunday morning, it would be much more difficult for families like mine to see the debate.

      Should those of us with genuine family values sacrifice our political participation for the sake of a minority of particularly fervent religious Republicans? The people at Evangelicals for Mitt seem to think so, and that disturbs me.

      I think that there ought to be a separation of church and debate. Let the church goers arrange their schedules, and the debate handlers arrange their own. A political movement that believes that it's okay to allow one religion to force everyone else to bend their schedules around their schedule of worship doesn't show respect for the cultural diversity of the United States of America.

      We need to elect a President in 2008 who recognizes that America is a heterogeneous community, and won't allow one group's cultural preferences to get special treatment to the detriment of everyone else. (Sources: EvangelicalsForMitt.com, August 5, 2007; ABC News, March 1, 2002)

    23. Every single Republican presidential candidate was invited to attend the 2007 Visible Vote forum dedicated to dealing with issues of concern to gay Americans. Every single Republican candidate declined to attend.

      You know, in a recent poll 45 percent of Americans reported having a family member or friend who was gay or lesbian. Even setting aside people for whom gay rights are simple an abstract principle of justice, that's nearly half of all Americans for whom gay issues are a friend's issues, a family member's issues. Every single Republican refused when given the chance to address those issues. (Source: CNN August 9, 2007; Associated Press July 17, 2007)

    24. Sometimes, the frequent calls for unity among presidential candidates can come to feel like a craven desire to have everyone unite behind them in particular, and stop asking challenging questions. True progressives have a different vision for America, a vision of peaceful diversity in which people have significant differences of opinion, but agree to disagree peacefully.

      It seems that Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo ascribes to neither a call for unity nor to a vision of peaceful diversity. If Tom Tancredo really means what he says, he is calling for civil war for the sake of cultural purity.

      At the Iowa straw poll this weekend, Tom Tancredo told his audience, "This is our culture. Fight for it!"

      Does Tom Tancredo really want Americans to fight each other over culture?

      History is clear. When one cultural group starts a fight in the name of its culture, people of other cultural groups are in danger.

      Whose culture does Tom Tancredo refer to when he speaks of "our culture"? It isn't the culture of Hispanics, not even those who belong to families that have been here in the United States for generations, and remain proud of their Spanish-speaking heritage. It isn't the culture of African-Americans. It isn't the culture of the LGBT community. It isn't any of the cultures of non-Christians. It isn't the progressive culture of liberty and openness.

      Tancredo isn't just calling for a struggle, either. He's calling for a fight. When Tom Tancredo urges his audience to fight for their culture, he's telling them that English-speaking, straight, white Christians ought to fight against everyone else in America. Tom Tancredo is calling for a purge, a cultural cleansing of America to remake it in his vision of cultural purity.

      That nationalist call for cultural purity ought to sound familiar. It's just the sort of thing that Adolph Hitler told the Germans to do - to fight for their culture. The Germans obeyed.

      Americans should not obey the call made by Tom Tancredo for a civil war in the name of his elite culture. (Source: Iowa City Gazette, August 11, 2007)

    25. Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is depending upon lingering fear of terrorist attack to carry him into the White House in 2008. In order to serve that purpose, Giuliani is trying to convince Americans that every place in the United States should expect to be attacked by terrorists, and he promises, "I will ensure that every community in America is prepared for terrorist attacks and natural disasters."

      Every community in America? Well, that includes Kulm, North Dakota, which is technically listed as a city, but most people would call a village or perhaps a hamlet. The official web site of the City of Kulm, North Dakota states, "From the 2000 census, the US government has determined that 422 of the nicest people in the world now live in Kulm. All 422 people would love to have you come and join them and experience why they love living here."

      Kulm sounds like a great place, a place well worth protecting.

      It just isn't worth the expense, however, for the federal government to dedicate its resources to ensuring that Kulm is adequately prepared to deal with a tsunami. The reason for that is obvious. Kulm is in the middle of North America. If a gigantic meteor smashed into the Arctic Ocean, there is some tiny chance that a resulting tsunami might reach Kulm. The chances of such an event, however, are so slim that they are not worth preparing for.

      The same can be said of a terrorist attack against Kulm, North Dakota. Nobody in their right minds believes that terrorists are preparing to attack Kulm. The chances of a terrorist attack against Kulm are just a little bit larger than the chances of a tsunami from the Arctic Ocean wiping Kulm off the map.

      Yet, Rudolph Giuliani proposes that the 422 residents of Kulm begin preparing for a terrorist attack against their community as soon as possible. That proposal would be silly, if it were not so dangerous to the American economy and the American identity.

      The costs of every little town across America preparing for a terrorist attack that will almost certainly never come cannot be supported by the American economy. Giuliani's antiterrorist plan would wreck America much more efficiently than any terrorist attack ever could.

      Just as threatening is the change in attitude that Rudolph Giuliani is asking people in small town America to make. One of the beautiful things about living in a small community is that people feel safe because they know each other enough to build a basic level of trust. Rudolph Giuliani's completely unnecessary push for preparations in case of terrorist attack against small towns like Kulm, North Dakota requires that residents of small towns trade in their trust and feeling of safety for suspicion and irrational fear.

      There is a small risk of attack by terrorists in America's major cities that is worthy of rational consideration. It is irresponsible, however, for ambitious politicians like Rudolph Giuliani to try to earn votes by spreading unreasonable fears of terrorism elsewhere.

      In 2008, we need a President who is sober enough to evaluate threats to community safety as the threats actually are, not as it would be politically convenient for them to be. (Sources: JoinRudy2008.com; KulmND.com)

    26. While more and more dangerous toys ripping apart kids' innards and exposing them to lead paint have been flooding the nation's toyshelves, the Republican administration of George W. Bush cut the staffing levels of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Commission once had more than 900 employees. Now, under President Bush, staffing is at less than half that level.

      Government spending is higher than ever under the Bush administration. It's just that the money is being spent in different ways, getting funneled to defense contractors and mercenaries in a useless war instead of being used to actually keep our nation's children safe. (Sources: Journal of Pediatric Surgery March 2007: 42 (3): e13-e16; Reuters August 30 2007; New York Times September 2 2007)

    27. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, huge numbers of Americans reacted by going to the Gulf Coast to help out in person, or by making financial donations to organizations providing assistance to survivors. Most Americans are glad to see federal dollars going to the area to help in the recovery.

      Sadly, the response by Republican Tom Tancredo has been quite the opposite. Tom Tancredo says that New Orleans residents have been enjoying a "gravy train", claims that money spent on Gulf Coast recovery from Hurricane Katrina was "wasted", and called for an end to all federal aid to the region.

      Unlike Tom Tancredo and his right wing supporters, progressive Americans recognize that the federal government has some serious obligations to the Gulf Coast region. First of all, the federal government has failed in its obligation to deal with global warming, which has elevated sea levels and increased hurricane intensity. Second, the Army Corps of Engineers failed in its duty to protect the city of New Orleans with adequate levees. Third, when the people of the Gulf Coast region were suffering, FEMA and other capable federal government agencies failed to come to the rescue until long after huge devastation and suffering had taken place.

      The federal government let down the residents of the Gulf Coast, and has a debt to repay to the region. Hurricane Katrina recovery aid is not a "gravy train". In 2008, we need to elect a President who recognizes that, not a compassionless right winger like Tom Tancredo. (Source: The Hill, August 31, 2007)

    28. My six year-old son fell and broke his arm in two places at the end of this summer. When I took him to the nearby hospital's emergency room, he was not seen by a medical doctor, because all the doctors were off on holiday.

      His arm sat in a sling for days afterwards, and he was prescribed both ibuprofen codeine to deal with the pain. The codeine leaves him without mental clarity, and that's a problem, given that he was scheduled to start school that week.

      Calling bright and early in the morning to get my son a quick appointment with an orthopedist, the first thing the receptionist asked me is about was insurance - not my son's condition. I was then informed that I'd have to wait a few more days for an appointment to have my son's broken arm looked at, and I'd have to bring him in during school hours, and we wouldn't actually be seeing the doctor, but one of his assistants, because the doctor would be busy with other clients, because of the backlog from his weekend getaway.

      Calling the other orthopedists in the area, I got the same story.

      The next time I hear one of the Republican presidential candidates talk about how important it is to keep the medical system the way it is, I'm going to puke.

    29. According to USAToday, the the Chairman of the Republican Party says "GOP candidates are not snubbing Hispanics; they are just busy with other campaign events."

      Busy: That's what explains the fact that every single Republican presidential candidate except for John McCain declined the invitation to be present at a presidential debate sponsored by Spanish-language channel Univision, to be focused on issues of concern to Hispanic Americans. No, no, it's not a snub of Hispanics! It's just that nobody could make it! Right!

      We've already noted that for some time Ron Paul has absolutely no events scheduled for September 16, 2007, and even has no events scheduled the next day until 4 pm. A recheck of Ron Paul's schedule today shows this to still be the case.

      We also took a look at Mike Huckabee's schedule. He had only one event planned for September 16, 2007: a fundraiser at the home of Robert Craig Kuykendall at 5 pm. So there was lots of space in Huckabee's schedule for the day just budge the Kuykendall fundraiser a bit earlier, and there you are.

      By the way, the Univision debate was to be held in the Miami - Coral Gables area of Florida, where Univision holds facilities and headquarters. Kuykendall's home is nearby, in Ocala, Florida. Mike Huckabee could have easily made a day of it. If he'd wanted to. Say, Kuykendall's not a Spanish name, is it?

      In case you were wondering about the other Republican candidates, I haven't been able to find their schedules. But while Univision optimistically says "We're looking for a new date," Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have already pre-emptively declined. Whatever the new proposed date will be, they know ahead of time they'll be too busy to be seen answering questions from brown-skinned people. (Sources: USA Today September 13 2007; Ron Paul Schedule September 2007; Mike Huckabee Schedule for week of September 10-17 2007)

    30. When confronted with confusion by campaign supporters about whether he is Episcopal or Baptist, John McCain got exasperated and responded, "The most important thing is that I'm a Christian."

      Why is the most important thing that John McCain is a Christian? In what way does John McCain think that being a Christian specially qualifies him to be President? How is McCain's Christian identity at all relevant

      The Constitution explicitly states that there is to be no religious test for public office. The presidency is a secular position, not a religious one, but that seems to have slipped John McCain's mind.

      In a heterogeneous society in which large numbers of people are not Christian at all, it's troubling to see a presidential candidate who still believes that a person ought to be a Christian in order to be elected President. In 2008, we need to elect a President who is prepared to work on behalf of all the people of the USA, not just the members of one religion. (Source: Associated Press, September 17, 2007)

    31. In the middle of the month of September 2007, all the Republican candidates except for John McCain turned down an invitation to a debate on issues of concern to Hispanic Americans. Particularly egregiously, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee wouldn't show up for the debate even though they had the time available to go.

      At the end of the month of September 2007, leading Republican presidential candidates Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson refused the repeated invitations of Tavis Smiley to come to a debate, available for free viewing at 9 pm Eastern Time tonight on PBS stations nationwide, to answer questions of concern to black Americans.

      Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Tancredo and Thompson had other plans. Rather than speak on a national stage to the concerns of a significant proportion of the American population, these five Republicans decided it would be more important to go meet a handful of rich white people in private fundraisers.

      I've heard it said that our choices make us who we are. (Source: USA Today September 27 2007)

    32. Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes says that Americans all have the freedom to praise God, and so we ought to use the power of government to establish Christian religious instruction in American public schools.

      Thanks for that revealing comment, Ayatollah Keyes. Would you be willing to let Wiccans force their religious instruction on Christian students as well?

      No? I didn't think so.

    33. On a certain level, I was glad to hear the following two statements made at the September 2007 Republican presidential debate hosted by Tavis Smiley. The four Republican frontrunners refused to attend that debate because they were afraid of answering questions that would come from African-Americans and Hispanics.

      Mike Huckabee:

      "Frankly, I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed for our party, and I am embarrassed for those who did not come."

      Sam Brownback:

      "I apologize for the candidates who are not here. I think that it's a disgrace that they are not here. I think that it's a disgrace for our country. I think it's bad for our party, and I don't think it's good for our future."

      Good for them for being embarrassed at the blatant racism displayed by Fred Thompson, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani. Good for them for at least feeling that way, but now, what are they going to do about that feeling?

      It's not enough to just apologize and be done with it. When the four most powerful presidential candidates in the Republican Party are able to snub a presidential debate just because of the ethnic backgrounds of the debate panel, it's a sign that the Republican Party is a racist organization. If Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee really are embarrassed about that, then they need to DO something about it.

      There are two things that Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee could do.

      1. They could pledge to refuse to support any of the four racist Republican presidential candidates unless those candidates offer a full public apology and agree to a make-up debate hosted by the same people who hosted the debate tonight.

      2. They could leave the racist Republican Party.

      The sad thing is that Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee just won't do that. As embarrassed as they feel about the racism that runs through the Republican Party, they won't take action against that racism because they're afraid that it would damage their political careers.

      Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee are going to go on supporting the Republican Party and will support its racist presidential nominee because they value political power over common decency. When given the choice between accommodating racist hatred and sacrificing personal gain, they will accommodate racist hatred.

      That's even more embarrassing than the original racist snub.

    34. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, Americans' attitudes toward foreigners have begun to recover from their low point in 2003. From a 29 percent favorable opinion by Americans of the French in 2003 to a 52 percent favorable opinion of the French in 2006. From a 44 percent favorable opinion of the Germans in 2003 to a 66 percent favorable opinion in 2006. We Americans are starting to pull our heads out of our navels and look beyond our borders. It's time to find a president who is capable of doing the same. (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    35. America needs to elect a progressive President in 2008 so that the government can compensate for, instead of serving as an accomplice to, the purposeful withholding of important information from citizens in many parts of the country.

      An instance of this restriction of information took place in Alpena, Michigan on October 4, 2007. That morning, it was revealed that President George W. Bush had lied when he claimed to be closing all of America's secret overseas prisons, and said that his government would no longer be torturing the prisoners held there and in other locations. Two secret White House memos that had been kept secret from Congress and the American public authorized torture and the continued operation of black site prisons.

      Around most of the country, this revelation was the top news story in the next morning's newspapers. The Alpena News, however, failed to report on the story at all. There wasn't one word about it.

      On Saturday, October 6, there was a related story in the Alpena News, but it wasn't really about the discovery of the secret memos. Instead, the story that the Alpena News chose to print, almost 48 hours after the story broke, on the weekend, reported on George W. Bush's declaration, in spite of the evidence, that the United States government does not torture.

      The Alpena News reported the Bush Administration's defense of its activities without even first reporting on what the allegations about the Bush Administration's illegal activities were. Thus, the people around Alpena, Michigan heard the story in the form of an assertion that everything is all right. They would be forgiven for wondering what the story was at all. (Source: Alpena News, October 5 and 6, 2007)

    36. We've got to stop the tailspin of the United States in global respect. Back in the year 2000, 83 percent of those surveyed in Great Britain reported a favorable attitude toward the United States. By 2006, that percentage had declined to just 56 percent. (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    37. In the year 2000, 62 percent of those surveyed in France reported a favorable attitude toward the United States. When the survey was repeated in 2006, that number had dropped to just 36 percent. (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    38. Back before George W. Bush took office, in the year 2000, 78 percent of Germans reported a favorable opinion toward the United States. In 2006, the last year for which data on the subject is available, only 37 percent of Germans reported a favorable opinion of the United States. (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    39. The Spaniards apparently have never much liked us. Even back in 2000, before George W. Bush made his first presidential mangling of the Spanish language, only 50 percent Spaniards surveyed reported a favorable opinion of the United States. When the Pew Global Attitudes Project repeated its survey in 2006, a bare 23 percent of Spaniards reported a favorable opinion of the U.S. We're losing diplomatic standing, fast. What happens when we need the world at the emergence of our next crisis? (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    40. In the year 2000, 75 percent of Indonesians reported a favorable opinion of the United States, but by 2006, only 30 percent of Indonesians reported such a favorable opinion. Don't dismiss Indonesia -- its population is comparable to that of the United States. We're losing the support of hundreds of millions thanks to the posturing of Cowboy George. (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    41. Turkey used to be a reasonably reliable ally of the United States. George W. Bush's inflammatory rhetoric has changed that. Back in 2000, before he strutted his way onto the presidential stage, 52 percent of Turks surveyed reported a favorable opinion of the United States. By 2006, that number had dropped to a mere 12 percent. Thanks, George. You lost us an ally. Now we'll have to bring someone on board to do the hard work of winning Turkey back... through the power of words, George, in case you were wondering. Words are amazing things when they're used well. (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    42. Thanks to George W. Bush, it's not just the United States as a country that has declined in the estimation of the world. It's Americans as people. We used to have a special relationship with Britain; in 2002 83 percent of Brits reported a favorable opinion of Americans as people. That was down to 69 percent. I want to scream across the Atlantic, "Not all of us voted for him, or like him, either!" (Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 13 2006)

    43. In October, 2007, House Republicans Tom Tancredo and Mike Pence were stupid enough to open their mouths and get sanctimonious about why they wouldn't vote for H.Res. 635, a bill to give the stamp of government approval to Islam and the holiday of Ramadan. They had objections to the bill that were opposite in direction: Tancredo said it was fine for government to endorse religions, but he was upset and protesting because nobody would ever let that kind of bill be passed for Christianity and Christmas. Pence said that separation of church and state prohibited the endorsement of any religion. Both are hypocrites, because both voted in favor of H.Res. 579, a bill to give the stamp of government approval to Christianity and the holiday of Christmas.

      The inanity surrounding this pair of bills (both of which passed the House, by the way) is not limited to Mike Pence or Tom Tancredo. 36 members of Congress voted to endorse Christmas and Christianity but wouldn't vote to endorse Islam and Ramadan.

      These politicians are conditional theocrats who feel they have the right to decide which religions are appropriate and which religions aren't. There are a handful of people who declined to endorse Islam who didn't vote to endorse Christianity but the only reason they didn't endorse Christianity is that they weren't members of Congress at the time! Yes, EVERY single member of Congress who declined to endorse Islam and was a member of Congress back in December 2005 jumped at the chance to endorse Christianity. So this isn't a mistake; it's part of a plan to legislate for one religion and against another. It is precisely because of this sort of favoritist use of power that the Constitution forbids government from being used to promote ANY religion. Let's go back to following the Constitution, shall we? The last thing we need in America is a religious war waged with the instruments of government.

    44. The Constitution of the United States of America clearly states that there shall be no religious test for any public office. Republican John McCain seems to have forgotten that. Campaigning to become the next President of the United States, McCain says that he thinks that the most important test of a presidential candidate's worthiness ought to be whether the candidate will promote Judaism and Christianity.

      In a 2007 interview, McCain said, "I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'"

      Consider this issue in the context of all the important issues Americans are dealing with today. As John McCain sees it, war, global warming, the dwindling of American liberty, economic crisis, health care, Social Security, education, crime, diplomacy, and any other political issue that you can think of, should take a back seat to religion. No matter how well a presidential candidate represents you on all of these issues, McCain says, you shouldn't vote for that candidate unless the candidate is Jewish or Christian.)

      If you really believe, as John McCain does, that a politician's religion is more important than their policies, then perhaps you ought to vote for McCain for President. If, on the other hand, you can see that the Presidency is a public office that must be equally accountable to all Americans, regardless of religion, try to find a more progressive candidate who remembers that the White House is a seat of secular power, not a pulpit for a Priest In Chief. (Source: BeliefNet.com, September, 2007)

    45. I'm not going to mention the name of the right wing Fox News talking head who declared this October that it would be easier if all Americans converted to Christianity so that she wouldn't have to deal with liberals talking about diversity any more. I'm not going to mention her name, because she's the kind of person who aims to provoke people into giving her attention, even negative attention. I'm not interested in rewarding her bigotry. I'm interested in exposing it.

      During a talk show on CNBC, a long exchange took place between the show's host and the Fox News personality. The exchange was provoked by the following blunt statements:

      Question: So we should be Christian? It would be better if we were all Christian?

      Answer: Yes.

      Question: We should all be Christian?

      Answer: Yes.

      Of Jews, the Fox News commentator suggested that Jews are merely imperfect Christians: "That is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews," she said, and later clarified her comment by saying, "We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say."

      This isn't just anti-semitism. It's against anybody who isn't Christian. Furthermore, it's against any Christian who doesn't support the idea that America would be a better nation if everyone believed exactly the same thing that they do.

      This one Fox News personality may have described her belief in unusually direct terms, but her position is not at all unusual within the right wing. Right wing politicians pander to the belief of many of their constituents that their religion deserves special treatment. Unfortunately, we've seen in this election that many Democratic presidential candidates are beginning to engage in that kind of pandering as well.

      America needs its next President to take the plain progressive approach to religion and politics: Your religion is your business, and is irrelevant to how the American government should be run. Leave your religious hate at the door, and let's get to the business of getting America back on its feet. (Sources: MSNBC, October 11, 2007; Editor and Publisher, October 12, 2007)

    46. Over and over and over, right wing politicians tell Americans that there is just no way to provide health care to all citizens. They say that we need to stick with the present system, in which huge numbers of people are unable to get necessary medical attention, even though the American people spend massive amounts on health insurance.

      Those politicians are counting on American voters to make the easy assumption that the American way of doling out health care is the only way to do it. Looking at the systems in place in other countries around the world, however, there are multiple examples of countries providing universal health care in just the sort of way that American right wingers say is impossible.

      In the Czech Republic, for instance, all citizens have free and easy access to medical care from the moment their are born until the moment they die. If the Czechs can do it, so can the USA. (Source: Environmental News Network, October 15, 2007)

    47. Here's another reason for me to vote progressive: They got to my son today.

      I was walking my son home from school, and he said as he was kicking some leaves, "by the way, we had a Level Three Lockdown today."

      "A Level Three Lockdown? What happened?" I replied.

      "Oh, it was just a drill. We had another Level Three Lockdown last month."

      "But your classroom doesn't even have any door on it. They can't lock anything down. How do you have a lockdown if you can't lock anything?"

      "Well, they just have us hide behind our coats and practice not moving."

      Do you know how statistically unlikely it is that a child will be injured or killed by an attacker?

      Do you know how statistically likely it is that a child will suffer death or a life-altering head or spinal injury as a result of school sports?

      They should be teaching my son how to do a safe shoulder roll on the playground, or how to fall without breaking his gossamer arm bones. They aren't. Instead, they're teaching my son how to cower under his coat and pretend not to move. They're teaching him to live in fear of something that will almost certainly never happen to him.

      Homeland Security is messing with my son's head. That's my reason to vote progressive in 2008.

    48. What's wrong with waterboarding torture? If you're an evangelical Christian, you ought to find a great deal that's wrong with it, just on a strategic level. The support of evangelical Christian organizations for waterboarding and other forms of torture by the American government is threatening to provoke a schism within evangelical Christianity, as many evangelicals search their consciences and realize that they can no longer abide by the idea that acceptance of torture is a Christian position.

      Consider the words of Jack Carter, who writes at Evangelical Outpost,

      "I blame myself, and implicate my fellow Christians. We have remained silent and treated an issue once considered unthinkable the acceptability of torture like a concept worthy of honest debate. But there is no room for debate: torture is immoral and should be clearly and forcefully denounced. We continue to shame ourselves and our Creator by refusing to speak out against such outrages to human dignity& As Christians we must never condone the use of methods that threaten to undermine the inherent dignity of the person created in the image of God& There is something clearly repugnant about our unwillingness to distance ourselves from the fear-driven utilitarians willing to embrace the use of torture."

      Jack Carter is no liberal Christian. He's a Republican and supports Republican candidates. He's part of the Religious Right. However, even Jack Carter can see that progressives are not just blowing hot air on the issue of torture. It clearly weighs heavily on his conscience to have supported politicians who now are supporting torture. He's watching not just his political party, but his religious community too, fall into moral depravity with a sadistic emotional attachment to torture. (Source: Evangelical Outpost, November 6, 2007)

    49. On May 15, 2003, Jim Shella of WISH TV-8 in Indianapolis reported that before a speech by George W. Bush in support of a tax cut, Republican White House operatives instructed wealthy donors and political players to remove their neckties if they would appear on-camera behind the image of George W. Bush.

      Why remove neckties? As Shella reported, Republican operatives wanted it to appear that the individuals clapping and cheering on Bush's tax cut plan were not wealthy donors and political players, but rather just regular old plain folks. To make wealthy donors and political players look like just regular old plain folks, the neckties had to go.

      As the polls show, George W. Bush is having a hard time getting real working-class Americans to support his tax cut for the rich. Apparently, manufacturing fake working-class Americans for TV cameras is good enough.

      This isn't the first time George W. Bush has had to manufacture a fake image because he couldn't deal with reality. The week before that incident, George W. Bush spent millions of taxpayer dollars keeping a ship and its crew idling in circles out in the Pacific away from its port so he could land on it in a jet for a campaign commercial. A few months before that, Dubya had his aides put "Made in America" stickers on Chinese-made boxes, then stacked them next to Bush. Apparently, the foreign-made truth would look bad on television. As far back as the Republican Convention of 2000, George W. Bush's handlers arranged for black faces to be painted on the Convention floor and black gospel choirs to be hired as entertainment in order to balance out the lily white faces of the real Republican Party players there that week.

      This is a pattern, people. It isn't just George W. Bush; it's a strategy orchestrated by the Republican Party. And these aren't matters of opinion -- they are observed, confirmed facts. When it makes him look bad, the Republicans are uninterested in showing the American people the truth.

    50. Republicans have been busy criticizing Barack Obama for not wearing an American flag pin everywhere he goes. If you're not wearing a flag pin, they say, you're not patriotic.

      It's an absurd idea, of course, saying that wearing a piece of jewelry is an absolute test of patriotism. But, for just a minute, let's accept the idea.

      If not having a flag pin is a sign of not being patriotic, then the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must be 1.8 trillion times less patriotic than Barack Obama.

      After all, Barack Obama has only decided not to have one flag pin. For the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, the United States could have had more than 1.8 trillion flag pins.

      I'm not kidding. The cost of an American flag pin is $1.29. That's not much. All you have to do is spend $1.29 one time, and then nobody can question your patriotism for the rest of your life. Well, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is 2.4 trillion dollars.

      Do the math, and you'll see that with that 2.4 trillion dollars, the United States government could have bought one trillion, eight hundred sixty billion, four hundred and sixty five million, one hundred and sixteen thousand, two hundred and seventy nine American flag lapel pins.

      Of course, the Republicans didn't do that. No, spitting on the good old USA, the Republicans chose not to spend that money on American flag pins. They chose war instead.

      By their own logic, that makes the Republican Party the most unpatriotic organization in all of American history. (Sources: United-states-flag.com; Salon, October 12, 2007; Agence France-Presse, October 25, 2007)

    51. Some consider it unpatriotic to say, but America could do better. Japan's newborn death rate is less than half that in the United States. We're falling behind in the world on a measure that matters. (Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers report for 2006)

    52. Progressive Americans are interested in expanding the availability of health care. Conservative Americans consider broadly available health care to be a threat. The Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Norway are industrialized countries in which universal health care is available to all residents regardless of ability to pay. In those countries, only two out of every thousand newborns die. In the United States, five out of every thousand newborns die. Conservative Americans are comfortable with the difference. Progressive Americans are not. Where do you stand? (Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers report for 2006)

    53. In Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, only three out of every thousand newborns die. That's better than in the United States, where five out of every thousand newborns die. Can't we do as well by our own babies as in these other industrialized countries? Shouldn't we try? (Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers report for 2006)

    54. It should be an embarrassment to every American that our rate of newborn mortality is greater than that of long-suffering Portugal... by a full two-thirds! (Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers report for 2006)

    55. In the United States, five out of every thousand newborns die. This is a rate that is higher than in almost all modern industrialized nations. Do you want to know what other country has that rate of newborn mortality? Poland! I mean no disrespect to Poland, but... well, yes. Yes, I do mean to disrespect Poland. Poland is a nation which has been battered about, spied upon, underdeveloped and repeatedly ravaged over the past century. The USA can't do better than Poland? Yes, yes, we can. But we haven't. It's time to turn that around. (Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers report for 2006)

    56. A survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation devoted to improving health care, found that Americans reported a higher rate of medical errors than survey participants from the other countries that were surveyed. Respondents from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK all indicated a lower rate of errors in their medical treatment than Americans did.

      What do all of these other countries have that the United States doesn't have? They have socialized medicine. It seems that, in spite of the claims of right wing rhetoric, socialized medicine is good for people. (Source: Commonwealth Fund, November 1, 2007)

    57. A while ago, an angry Republican sent Irregular Times a hastily scribbled email in which we were lectured, "There is no if or any about it you are anti American."

      Anti-American? I've been chewing on that idea ever since we got that email, trying to make sense of it. You see, I'm not sure how we at Irregular Times can be anti-American, given that all of the Irregular Times writers are Americans. It's not as if we are plagued with self-loathing, after all.

      Perhaps, I thought, we might just be America haters without realizing it. So, I searched our web site for the phrase "I hate America." Not a single search result came up. The mystery deepened.

      Next, I searched the Irregular Times web site for the phrase "I love America", and came up with many results.

      Of course, we're not anti-American. We are anti-Bush, and anti-Republican, and anti-fundamentalist, and anti-discrimination, and anti-war. We are also pro-peace, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-science, pro-liberty, pro-Constitution, pro-equality, pro-fairness progressives.

      So where did this angry Republican get the idea that just because we support liberty and oppose Republican attacks on liberty, we are anti-American? The weird suggestion of this Republican's little rant is that people cannot oppose the policies of the Republican government and be Americans at the same time. In this bizarre view, being a Republican is a necessary part of being an American.

    58. I ran across a web site called the Republican Market, an online catalog of political paraphernalia designed just for Republican Americans. On this web site, I found this bumper sticker, which reads, "There are Americans and then there liberals."

      I cannot exaggerate the degree to which I am disturbed at encountering this strong Republican sentiment that liberals born, living and working in America are not Americans. This Republican attitude reduces the American nation to a mere political party. According to this Republican vision, people who do not conform to the political theories espoused by the political elites who control the government are not entitled to the privileges of citizenship. Talk about political correctness! In this new Republican model of nationhood, anyone who disagrees with Republican leaders is excommunicated from their Grand Church of Homeland America.

      I am every bit as much of an American as George W. Bush is, and so are all the proud liberals who come to read Irregular Times, and there is no way in hell that I am going to let any Republican enforcers of political orthodoxy take my American citizenship away from me.

      The best aspects of America's traditional values are all liberal. Liberty, social mobility, equality, education, community, compassion, fairness, and progress are the values that have made America strong. As a liberal, I lay claim to the best of America, and I am not about to allow the Republican Party to destroy that proud heritage.

    59. In the debate over health care reform, a good deal of attention should be paid to the perception of people living in the countries that already have health care models of the sort that reformers suggest the United States switch to. In order to assess this perception, the Commonwealth Fund's health care survey asked people living in the Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the USA what should be done with their countries' health care systems. 37 percent of Americans responded that the American health care system needs to be "completely rebuilt". That's more than in any other of the countries surveyed.

      In comparison to Americans, people who live in countries with socialized medicine and universal health care seem to be more satisfied with the quality of medical care that they receive. We in the United States ought to pay attention to that relative success, and aim toward it. (Source: Commonwealth Fund, November 1, 2007)

      The Myers Park Baptist Church is no longer a Southern Baptist church. That's not their choice. It's the choice of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, which met yesterday and voted in favor of kicking the Myers Park Baptist Church out of the Southern Baptist Convention.

      The reason for the expulsion was that the Myers Park Baptist Church leadership decided not to shun their homosexual members. They say that the rules of the Southern Baptist Convention are clear, and call all people to turn their backs on sin.

      Well, that's some standard. Is the Southern Baptist Convention now going to kick out any Baptist church that has members who have had premarital sex? That's supposed to be a sin, just like homosexuality, according to the Southern Baptist rules. But of course, they won't go that far. That's because the Southern Baptist Convention expulsion of the Myers Park Baptist church isn't really based upon the Bible, or upon absolute rejection of sin. No, it's based on a very selective kind of bigotry that targets homosexuals in particular because they're easy to pick on.

      It's important to remember that the Southern Baptist Convention is not politically neutral. Its churches are very strongly associated with right wing politics in particular. The ugliness of right wing religion, and its expulsion of anyone who refuses to go along with their ugliness, ought not to be forgotten on Election Day 2008. (Source: 365 Gay, November 13, 2007)

    60. Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, identifies the weakness that lies behind the right wing ideology summarized in Ronald Reagan's statement that "government is the problem". When the government's own leaders identify government as a problem instead of a potential source of solutions, they leave themselves unready to deal with the kind of large disasters that only government can death with.

      Pope explained that, because of the anti-government bias encouraged by right wingers like Ronald Reagan, "Politicians of both parties have become accustomed to a government that thinks small and provides less even when enormous societal challenges like global warming demand sweeping action."

      The problems America faces now are very large indeed, and we need leaders who have imaginations that are large enough to come up with good government solutions. We need progressives. (Source: Sierra Magazine, November/ December 2007)

    61. The right wing Homeland Security regime promises to keep America safe, but the truth is that it can't even get its facts about security in our neighborhoods right. Take, for instance, the way that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers botched the job in the area around New Orleans' Lakeview neighborhood.

      The Corps of Engineers released a report, very proud of itself, saying that the system of floodgates and pumps it had devised after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina would lower floodwaters in the Lakeview neighborhood and surrounding areas by five and a half feet. That would be impressive.

      Suspicions began to grow, however, when people noticed that the official reports describing this level of protection didn't have the original data required for anyone to check in. Then came reports from engineers who actually worked on the project. The engineers said that the floodgates and pumps would provide the neighborhood with protection against six inches of flooding, at best.

      Two years after Hurricane Katrina, with millions of dollars spent, and all that Homeland Security has been able to protect the Lakeview neighborhood from is six inches of flooding? It's clear that with the Republicans still in charge of the federal Executive Branch, we aren't getting anything but the false bravado and mismanagement that made American neighborhoods vulnerable to natural disasters in the first place. (Source: Associated Press, November 17, 2007)

    62. The 2008 election is quickly becoming characterized by the pathetic scramble of almost all the candidates involved to prove the intensity of their religious fervor. Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson's contribution to the group: "A healthy society is predicated on belief in God."

      That's not just an off-the-cuff statement made on the campaign trail. It's a statement that Thompson and his advisors decided to put on the issues page of their campaign's web site. It's declared as one of the principles at the heart of Fred Thompson's presidential campaign.

      Of course, the idea that a healthy society is predicated on belief in God is easy to prove false. European countries, on the whole, have a much better health care system than the United States. Those European countries, where there is universal health care from birth to death, are characterized by a much lower rate of belief in God than the United States.

      More broadly, a recent study by Gregory S. Paul at Creighton University, a Catholic university, found that a high national rate of belief in God is actually correlated with unhealthy social phenomena. Paul summarized, "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies."

      Besides being factually wrong, Fred Thompson's statement constitutes an insult against Americans who don't believe in God. Thompson is implying that we non-theist Americans, who make up somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of the population, depending upon how one defines non-theism, are to blame for the social maladies afflicting the United States.

      Practically speaking, what does Fred Thompson intend to do to solve the problem as he perceives it? Does he plan to use the power of the White House to discourage disbelief? Would he expand George W. Bush's failed government bureaucracy of Faith-Based Initiatives, and use it to promote belief in God among American citizens?

      As usual, Fred Thompson is short on details. (Sources: Fred08.com; Journal of Religion and Society, Volume 7, 2005)

    63. As Americans prepared for Thanksgiving this year, we found out that the federal government had sent out warnings to state and local law enforcement units that Osama Bin Laden could be planning to attack shopping malls in the USA some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The idea was that Osama Bin Laden hates America because we have really great discount prices.

      The catch: The warning was based upon information from just one person and has not been corroborated at all. The FBI, once word of the warning got out, explained that it didn't regard the information as at all credible. Still, the entire nation has been put on a special warning. "Out of an abundance of caution, and for any number of other reasons, raw intelligence is regularly shared within the intelligence and law enforcement communities, even when the value of the information is unknown," FBI spokesperson Richard Kolko explained.

      An abundance of caution? More like an overabundance of caution. When Homeland Security puts law enforcement on alert regardless of the quality of information it has, the implication is clear. It isn't just the warning that lacks credibility. The Department of Homeland Security itself is no longer credible. (Source: Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2007)

    64. Progressive activists do a great deal of work to protect Americans from the abuses of the right wing government established under George W. Bush, with the help of right wing politicians in Congress. However, their work goes far beyond just anti-Republican activism. The same principles that lead progressive activists to defend Americans from government abuse also motivate them to work against abuses by big businesses as well.

      Consider the work of MoveOn in confronting the abusive policies of Facebook, a huge social networking site. Facebook doesn't just allow its users to network with each other, it seems. It also enables businesses to get a piece of the action, using software to track Facebook users as they travel the web even after they leave the Facebook site. Facebook tracks purchases people make on web sites that pay Facebook a special fee. Then, the users' names are used, without their permission, in promotional messages by companies who pay Facebook to get the information. Facebook also sends unsolicited messages to everyone in users' networks, revealing what users are buying when they're not on the Facebook site.

      If Facebook users want to stop this intrusion into their privacy, they have to opt out by using an inconspicuous check box when they aren't even expecting it, when they're shopping. There is no all-inclusive opt out option. Instead, Facebook members have to opt out every time they make a purchase, over and over again. If they fail to opt out just once, their privacy is lost.

      The progressive activists at MoveOn are on the job, engaging in a campaign to convince Facebook to reform its activities by replacing the repeated need to opt out with an opt in system that allows people to have their private information spread around the web if they want, but doesn't start the process without their permission.

      This activism, made without any partisan effort at political gain, is emblematic of a fundamental progressive value: The larger systems of our society ought to serve the interests of the people, and not the other way around. Social networking should not require people to expose their private activities to everyone in their communities. In 2008, we need to elect a President who shares this perspective on the relationship of the individual to society. (Sources: CNet News, November 20, 2007; MoveOn Petition)

    65. I just came across a frightening reminder of the violence with which right wing religious zealots are willing to enforce their beliefs on everyone else.

      Arguing in favor of efforts to stop the publication of a book that right wing Christians do not like, Lisa Gossett dreamed of a future in which all people are violently forced to submit to Christianity: "There will come a time when EVERY knee will bow and EVERY one confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord. Some choose to do it now. Some will HAVE to do it later and your reward for denying Christ will come to you."

      I'm going to be forced to bend my knee and accept the rule of Christianity over me, and be punished for not doing it sooner?

      That's just not nice. It's a kind of desperate bullying, designed to get people to obey out of fear. We've had enough of that in America, in religion and in politics. (Source: Baltimore Sun, November 16, 2007)

    66. Had cancer? Got multiple sclerosis? How about diabetes?

      If you've had any medical troubles in the past, and we get a Republican elected President in 2008, then you're out of luck. People with pre-existing conditions just wouldn't be covered under the health care plans proposed by the top Republican presidential candidates.

      "People with preexisting conditions would not be able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it," says economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. "Unless it's in a state that has very strong consumer protections, they would likely be denied coverage."

      The reason? The Republicans talk about expanding health care coverage by private health care insurance companies, pumping government money into these for-profit corporations. However, the Republicans don't want to require the health insurance companies to make any concessions in return for all of that money. The health insurance companies will still get to reject whatever kind of people they want, and would also be free to deny people coverage even when people were covered by insurance, if they wanted to.

      So, the kind of expanded health insurance offered by the Republican presidential candidates seems to be health insurance that doesn't actually provide for most people's health. I don't get it. How does this help? (Source: Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2007)

    67. For tonight's Republican presidential debate, CNN chose to spend the entire first 30 minutes on YouTube questions about immigration policy. Immigration is not the most important issue facing the nation. It's not the second most important issue facing the nation. It's not the third most important issue facing the nation.

      Yet, CNN chose to ignore the top issues, in order to spend time encouraging the Republican candidates to compete over who could be the most xenophobic. It's a shameful display of how TV news channels have skewed strongly to the right. We need a progressive President to balance out that balance. (Source: CNN, November 28, 2007)

    68. For anti-government right wingers like Ron Paul, the problem with government inspections is that there's just too many of them. He says we need to get the government inspectors off our backs.

      Progressives see it another way - we need more government inspectors to watch our backs, protecting us from sloppy and unscrupulous corporations that cut corners to try to make the kind of profits that earn special rewards for their executives.

      A report on the state of the Food and Drug Administration makes the point. The report, by the FDA Subcommittee on Science and Technology, finds that, although the FDA has the responsibility under the law to regulate and inspect the quality of the medicines and foods we depend upon to be healthy, its budget has been shrunk down to such an extent that the American people are actually in danger.

      - The FDA has been unable to keep up with scientific advances, staying with drug-testing technology that was invented in the 1950s while the pharmaceutical industry develops medications that work in ways that the 1950s never could have dreamed of.
      - The scientific process at the FDA has broken down due to inadequate staffing, so that basic steps in the scientists' work, such as peer review, just aren't taking place with any reliability.
      - The FDA is unable to evaluate risks of genetically-modified organisms, antibiotic-resistant germs, and prion diseases such as mad cow disease
      - Employees at the FDA have been left to fend for themselves, with inadequate professional development and review
      - Inspections of the food supply have dropped by 78 percent, and facilities that produce food are inspected only once every ten years.
      - There are no FDA inspections of retail food establishments or farms
      - Although the FDA is supposed to ensure the safety of dietary supplements, it has no funds to do so
      - Cosmetics manufacturers, who have been found to create things like lipsticks that have been found to contain high levels of lead, are inspected even less than facilities that produce food

      George W. Bush demands that the FDA fix itself with the resources that it already has. However, the new report states "unequivocally that the system cannot be fixed within available resources". The Republican approach of asking that essential government tasks repair themselves with duct tape and spray paint has not worked for the FDA, and is leading to disaster.

      Right wing economic ideology states that this state of affairs is a step in the right direction, and that we will all be in much better condition once the FDA completely falls apart. Recent history shows otherwise. Americans have been the victims of a frightening number of drugs with deadly side effects, food-borne illnesses, dangerous dietary supplements and other unsafe products.

      The regulations and inspections of the FDA don't interfere with our constitutional rights. In fact, the FDA's sort of work is explicitly authorized by the Constitution, which enables Congress to set up institutions to promote the "general welfare". However, the right wing that controls the government has reduced the FDA to a shambles, thanks to the apathy of politicians like George W. Bush and the animosity of politicians like Ron Paul.

      A crippled FDA may be great for the profits of big corporations, but it's deadly for the American people, and we need a new progressive President who will have the integrity to reinvigorate the FDA, for the sake of the general welfare. (Sources: USA Today, December 3, 2007; FDA Report of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology)

    69. Government. Hah. Pffff. Hiss. Boo. It just takes your taxes and

      builds libraries.

      I've got a public library about a three-minute walk away with books and dvds and audiobooks and CD-ROMs of software and free wireless and a bank of twenty broadband computers (oh man, if they just added coffee). I just discovered that with my free library card, I have free access to a bank of university-level subscription-only databases, including newsbanks and academic journal databases and digital image banks and historical documents, from home no less.

      You know I have trouble with some aspects of government. But I have a hard time with people who can't tell me one good thing that government does. Unless you have no imagination and no curiosity, you'd be hard-pressed to knock what our public libraries can provide.

      By the way, that good old-fashioned progressive Ben Franklin started up libraries in the United States, and public lending libraries first flourished in progressive states of New England in the 1800s. Libraries are another good mark on the progressive historical report card. (Source: Michael Harris' History of Libraries in the Western World. Go ahead, look it up in your local library's catalog.)

    70. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden rejects the notion that in the face of dangerous Chinese-made products, there's not much to be done:
      With the WTO guidelines, we could stop these products coming in now. This president doesn't act. We have much more leverage on China than they have on us.

      Let's get something straight here. We're making them into 10 feet tall. It took them 30 years to get 20 percent of their population out of poverty. They've got 800 million people in poverty. They're in real distress.

      The idea that a country with 800 million people in poverty has greater leverage over us is preposterous. What it is: We've yielded to corporate America. We've yielded to this president's notion of what constitutes trade, and we've refused to enforce the laws that exist.

      As president, I would end flat, bang, no importation of those toys. Why? Under WTO, you're allowed to do it until you send inspectors to guarantee. Why aren't they doing it? Corporate America doesn't want it. Enforce the law. Enforce the law.

      For too long, we've had a president who won't act on behalf of the American people because corporate interests demand inaction. We need to reverse this set of priorities, so that our president will put the needs of the American people before the needs of corporations. (Source: National Public Radio Democratic Presidential Debate of December 4 2007)

    71. The presidential campaign of Tom Tancredo has become so singularly dependent upon Americans' fear of an immigrant invasion of the United States that destroys English-speaking culture here that Tancredo is now caught up in a cycle of escalating claims of crisis that are so divorced from reality that Tancredo seems to have lost all grasp of credibility. At the Republican presidential debate in Iowa early in December 2007, for example, Tancredo declared, "We have had 40 years of unlimited 40 or 45 years, really of unlimited immigration, both legal and illegal, into this country. It has become a that is a problem. Unlimited, massive immigration is a problem."

      Step back from all the right wing rhetoric about immigration for a minute, and just think about whether Tancredo's claim could possibly be true. Has there really been between 40 and 45 years of unlimited immigration into the United States?

      Any thinking American who has not embraced Tancredo's agenda of xenophobia can recognize right away that Tancredo's statement is absurd. Immigration to the United States over the last four decades has not been at all unlimited. Unlimited immigration would be that everyone in the world who wanted to move to the United States would be able to. Whatever you think about the state of immigration into the United States, if you're connected to reality, you can recognize that immigration has not been anything at all close to unlimited.

      Frighteningly, Tom Tancredo's campaign seems to have left the realm of reality and entered the world of right wing paranoid delusion. Tom Tancredo's success in getting attention with his delusions of unlimited immigration have brought him the kind of attention that just can't compete with the relatively mundane degree of problems connected to immigration policy in the United States. (Source: New York Times, December 12, 2007)

    72. In the NPR Presidential Debate of December 4 2007, Democratic presidential candidates were confronted with the sentiment of a North Carolina resident:
      We mentioned that we've been taking questions from listeners in recent weeks about this debate, and one is on a small issue that, I think, points to a large concern. It comes from Tally Wilson (ph) of Boone, North Carolina, and her concern has to do with those voicemail automated messages that you get if you call a government office or a business office; the ones that say for English press one, "para Espanol oprima numero dos." She says, "Suddenly we're asked what language we speak in our own country. Will you remove the question about what language we speak when we call any U.S. government office?"

      Barack Obama's response:

      No. Because there are Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens who may not speak English well, and if they're seeking help, for example, on some vital health care question, or a senior citizen who emigrated here a long time ago and they're trying to get their Social Security check, I don't want them to not be able to get those services.

      Hillary Clinton's response:

      As Barack said, there are a lot of Americans who are citizens who speak different languages. I represent New York City. I think there's, like, 170 languages and dialects; the city would be in total chaos if people didn't get some services and some, you know, help in the language that they actually understood.

      Dennis Kucinich's response:

      I was able to defeat an English-only proposal in the Ohio Senate years ago when I pointed out our state's founding documents were in German. We need to have our children learn languages. I mean, what is this fear of the other? Why are we separating ourselves from the possibility of being able to merge with the world? An insular and isolated America doesn't cut it. And so what I'm talking about is rebuild our economy, do it confidently, and encourage the American people to work to reach out.

      My political philosophy, I see the world as one. I see the world as being interconnected and interdependent and there being an imperative for human unity. And so we need to reach out, and education is the way to do it. Let's have our children learn languages, and let's grow our economy in a confident way, full-employment economy, jobs for all, health care for all, not-for-profit health care for all.

      Christopher Dodd expanded the terms on which to answer the question:

      The point is that you need to be, I think, enriching this. Paul Simon, a former colleague in the United States Senate, wrote a book called "The Tongue-Tied Americans." And understanding what I mentioned at the outset of this debate about having to run classified ads to find Arabic speakers at a time after 9/11 is an indication that we need to be talking more about that.

      And clearly as Joe has just said, this is a source of our wealth and richness of this country. We have so benefited as a result of people who have come here because of religious, political persecution, seeking a better life for their families. This has been a great source of strength for our country. We need to work with it, obviously be practical about it. But this is a source of pride in our country, not something to be talked about in negative terms.

      Each of these presidential candidates has avoided the tactic of identifying a scary outsider to demonize, instead approaching the question practically or, in Dodd's case, asking how the country can be made even better by not contracting but expanding our linguistic diversity. (Source: NPR Presidential Debate of December 4, 2007)

    73. Conservatism is not the only enemy of progressive politics. The creep of moneyed corporatism is just as important to watch out for, and it often travels under guise.

      David Broder of the Washington Post uses the word "Bipartisan" to refer to a group of rich power players who have announced their intention to meet on January 7, 2008 at the University of Oklahoma. You can read the article for yourself, but I advise you not to read it literally. Instead, it should be read as part of the long-term project of David Broder Broder to broker the creation by various members of the DC Beltway dinner club circuit of a unity presidential ticket of one Republican and one Democrat in 2008. Broder seems to have concluded that the faux-populist Unity08 is incapable of accomplishing his goal, and so now he has thrown his journalistic approval to the manufacture of an openly-unpopulist independent presidential run by a group of insider power brokers.

      As one of the little people in flyover country, I know it's not my place, but I'm going to be arrogant and uppity anyway and rewrite Broder's article with information from the ever-helpful SourceWatch:

      Billionaire media mogul Michael R. Bloomberg, ranked at #34 on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest individuals, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading powerbrokers representing the connection between corporate and political power. These powerbrokers will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a "government of national unity" to stop engaging in policy debates and instead unite behind their platform. If they will not do so, the corporate politicians are set to declare, they will be prepared to use their own wealth and the funds of their corporate backers to nominate a presidential candidate from their own ranks who will agree to follow their policy agenda.

      Conveners of the meeting include:

      * Sam Nunn. Former Democratic U.S. Senator. Senior partner in the corporate law firm of King and Spaulding, member of the board of directors of ChevronTexaco, Coca Cola, Dell Computer, General Electric, Internet Security Systems and Scientific-Atlanta. Vice Chair of the Concord Coalition.

      * Charles Robb. Former Democratic U.S. Senator. Member and Vice Chairman of the board of directors of MITRE Corporation. Member of the board of directors of lobbying firm Strategic Partners LLC. Vice Chair of the Concord Coalition.

      * David L. Boren. Former Democratic U.S. Senator, Member of the board of directors of Conoco Phillips, AMR Corporation, Texas Instruments, Torchmark Corporation. Member, National Coalition for Peace through Strength. President of the University of Oklahoma.

      * Gary Hart. Former Democratic U.S. Senator. Member of Council on Foreign Relations.

      * Chuck Hagel. Republican U.S. Senator.

      * Bill Brock. Former Republican U.S. Senator. Former Chair of the Republican Party. Member of the board of directors of the Bretton Woods Committee (a group to promote the interests of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization), ResCare, Chairman of the Brock Group lobbying firm, Chairman of Intellectual Development Systems, Inc.

      * John C. Danforth. Former Republican U.S. Senator. Defense attorney for corporations at Bryan Cave LLP. Bought as much as $200,000 in Bell Atlantic stock during Senate deliberations regarding a Bell Atlantic corporate merger. Member of the board of directors of Cerner Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, General American Life Insurance Company, Time Warner and MetLife, Inc.

      * Christine Todd Whitman. Former Republican Governor of New Jersey. Founder and head of Whitman Strategy Group, a lobbyist organization, and lobbyist for energy industry firm TCAP and Citgo Petroleum. Co-Chair of Clean and Safe Energy, lobbying and public relations firm for nuclear power industry. Held ownership of oil wells in Texas and Colorado. Member of the board of directors of S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., Texas Instruments, United Technologies and Council on Foreign Relations.

      * William Cohen. Former Republican U.S. Senator. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of lobbyist firm The Cohen Group, which has clients including Alcoa, Baker Hughes Inc., Bechtel, General Dynamics, Iridium Satellite, Lockheed Martin, Oracle and Rolls Royce. Member of the board of directors of MIC Industries, AIG, CBS and Viacom.

      * Alan Dixon. Former Democratic U.S. Senator. Partner at corporate law firm of Bryan Cave, specializing in appellate work. Advisory trustee for Bear Stearns Funds. Member of the board of directors of the National Futures Association.

      * Bob Graham. Former Democratic U.S. Senator.

      * Jim Leach. Former Republican Congressman.

      * Susan Eisenhower. Chief of Eisenhower Group, corporate consulting group to Russian and aerospace firms on political and investment activities. Dwight D. Eisenhower's granddaughter is part of the military-industrial complex he warned us about.

      * David Abshire. Republican member of Council on Foreign Relations. Former member of the board of Proctor and Gamble and the Ogden corporation. Member of the advisory board of BP.

      * Edward J. Perkins. Former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, South Africa, and the United Nations. Senior Vice Provost of International Programs at the University of Oklahoma, where David Boren is president.

      All but two of the group are men. All but one of the group are white. Each has a connection to either corporate leadership and advocacy or political leadership. Most have both. Only one is a currently elected politician. This small group of the powerful and connected seeks to choose the next president.

      That's not how David Broder worded it, but it's all true.

      Don't just watch out for conservatives. Watch out for any group of powerful people that tells you it is time for national unity. What they really mean is that you should sit down, shut up, turn off your brain and follow in line like a good little sheep. (Source: Washington Post December 30, 2007)

    74. "Nobody likes taxes". You'll see this phrase uttered by politicians, pundits and opinion writers again and again and again and again and again and again.

      Well, excuse me, but I'm not nobody. I'm somebody, and I am at least one person who likes taxes. I like taxes. I adore taxes. I love taxes.

      And no, I don't just mean that I love it when other people pay taxes. I like paying my own taxes. It gives me a good feeling in my stomach. It makes me feel proud and happy.

      I understand this may be a minority position, and that's a real problem, because it indicates a profound psychological disconnect in a majority of Americans.

      Everybody loves having nice, well-paved roads. Everybody enjoys being able to take for granted the really well-oiled, high-functioning postal system we've got. Everybody likes the Internet. Everybody likes their prescription drugs based on new scientific understanding. Everybody likes that medical techniques are revised for the better on a regular basis. Not one of these things would come to pass without taxes.

      Taxes do less universal things, too. Most people are members of at least one constituency served by taxes. Elderly people love their medicare. Parents rest assured knowing they can send their kids to some public school without paying for it, so assured that most don't even think about it. Readers like libraries. City dwellers really appreciate (or really should, if they bother to think about it) public water and public sewage systems. Students at state universities enjoy their reasonably-priced education. Work-study students at private colleges are grateful for Pell grants and guaranteed student loans. Jet-setters love being able to hop across the country using the tax-supported system of airports. Sports fans love their subsidized stadiums. Small business owners make regular use of the Small Business Administration for help with loans and set-up issues among a number of other things. Wealthy investors couldn't do without the Securities and Exchange Commission. Media tycoons make use of taxpayer funds via the Federal Communications Commission and its attached bureaucracy to bring predictability to the television, radio and print business industries. News outlets and news readers enjoy the regular flood of public information that is gathered, compiled and released by public agencies. Property owners depend on the presence of police and courts to keep their things safe. People with bank accounts depend on FDIC insurance for the guarantee that their money will not just disappear overnight. People with loads of personal wealth appreciate the work of Alan Greenspan and the Fed to maintain their wealth by using the government apparatus to keep inflation low. Rabblerousers enjoy having members of Congress (and their staffs) to harass into line.

      Let me get personal. Without taxes, I wouldn't be writing to you right now and you wouldn't be reading it. Taxes made the development of the Internet possible. Without taxes, I might not be alive at all today. Taxes supported medical research that developed, just two years before I needed it, an efficient, effective, and yet relatively inexpensive treatment called plasmapheresis. When I was paralyzed at 18 years of age, I got the treatment. I got better. So thank you, taxes! I love you for it, and I'm happy to do a little payback into the system now for that oh-so handy favor.

      In the past, when people criticized taxes, they tended more to criticize what was being done with them. How can we justify a hundred-dollar screwdriver purchased by government, or a ten-dollar screw, reformers asked? Why are we spending so much on this program, and so little on this other program? These are legitimate questions that, in the exercise of representative government, maintain the responsiveness of tax spending to social needs.

      But I don't hear that sort of criticism of taxes much anymore. Instead, there is a certain attitude of irresponsibility that seems to have arisen in the past twenty-five years, since Ronald Reagan got into office and started bad-mouthing taxes from the Oval Office. At best, certain people seem to have either forgotten that taxes are the necessary element for the public goods they enjoy. These ignorant people seem to believe that roads, sewers, clean water, internet connections, lit streets, libraries, public education and research progress just happen because of the benevolence of the Good Fairy.

      Others maintain a belief in their individual, self-made nature. "I made myself who I am today! I didn't need any help! Why should I pay any taxes? I don't owe anybody anything!" writes Claude in grammatically correct sentences he learned in the tax-funded public schools, on the internet chatroom made possible through tax-funded research, after driving to the nearest wireless java joint on tax-funded roads under tax-funded streetlights, having just flushed his feces into the tax-funded public sewers, having after that washed his hands without fear of water-borne disease thanks to tax-funded water treatment, sipping his hygenically-safe cup of coffee (thanks not only to tax-funded water treatment but also to tax-maintained environmental standards and federal and state health inspectors), having read Ayn Rand's book helpfully on loan from the tax-funded pubic library as a refresher for his memory of libertarianism originally obtained from that political philosophy course he took as an undergraduate at tax-supported Southwest Missouri State University. Standing on the shoulders of the contributions of millions of others, Claude exclaims, "See how tall I am!"

      At worst are the people who know that taxes are responsible to a great extent for their quality of life, but don't want to pay taxes themselves anyway. I'm talking about tax cheats and tax shelterers, sure. But I'm also talking about politicians who want to cut taxes and simultaneously raise spending. (That's George W. Bush and the Republicans, in case you hadn't noticed). These are the borrow-and-spend crowd, who would rather run up a huge public debt, generating interest and interest-on-interest, making the next generation's taxes higher and more proportionally dedicated to paying off creditors and less dedicated to the things we enjoy increasingly on credit: our roads, our communication, our health, our security.

      To say that "nobody likes taxes," to assert that Americans want to pay fewer taxes, to campaign on the promise that voters won't have to shoulder their portion of the burden any longer, to allow national debt to creep ever higher, is to let erode the collective accomplishment of America built up through the sacrifice of previous generations. It is to embrace a politics of profound personal and collective irresponsibility. It is to embrace a politics of moral selfishness at the expense of the long-term interest of us all.

      I'm proud to embrace my responsibilities. I'm proud to pay taxes.

    75. When I was a child, my elders taught me that it was possible to vigorously disagree with people and still be good neighbors. We might not always see eye to eye with everyone who lived on our little block, but we would always smile, wave our hands, and say hello when we saw them. It was just a part of what we used to call "community values".

      Well, the Republicans these days certainly know how to talk about values, but it looks like the talk doesn't have much of a good old-fashioned commitment behind it for some Republican politicians. Why, the way that some Republican politicians are acting these days, you'd think they don't really care if Americans get along or not.

      Consider Congressman Jim Gibbons, a fellow from Nevada who seems to be in need of a nice, long, hot mug of peppermint tea and milk. Mr. Gibbons is in the habit of launching into spontaneous eruptions of rude behavior, rather like a high school student who is trying to gain some attention during a history lesson.

      Mr Gibbons has been throwing out a lot of strange insults around. He accused Democrats of trying to split America in two, then scowled and yelled, "I say we tell those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and their music and whine somewhere else!" Now, pardon me for asking an obvious question, but how is it that telling one's political opponents that they're no longer welcome to live in America is supposed to help reunite our country?

      It seems that Mr. Gibbons has also been making little speeches in which he accuses people who don't like it when corporations bribe the President of being "communists". Hippies and communists? Oh, dear. Even someone like myself knows that those characters are things of the past. Isn't it kind of silly to use these terms in a political insult in the 21st Century?

      What's not silly is that, in some of his speeches Mr. Gibbons has also said that he thinks that liberals should be sent to Iraq as "human shields".

      Those people who read Irregular Times on a regular basis know that we who write for this web site are eager to enter a strong political debate. I'll speak for myself when I say that I don't mind at all when Republicans argue against my ideas, or even when they accuse me of being hypocritical, or naive, or ignorant. I'm happy to make such accusations myself, when they're appropriate.

      I was not raised to believe, however, that the United States of America is the kind of country in which members of the ruling party tell other people to leave just because they don't agree with what their government is doing. I was raised to believe that the United States of America is the kind of country where citizens are encouraged to express their opinions about the government, whether those opinions are positive or negative. Listening to Mr. Gibbons bellow and bluster, telling people like me to move out of the country, well, I guess it just makes me wonder if the America I was taught to believe in as a child is still alive.

      Mr. Gibbons, and all the other Republican politicians who seem so strangely enraged these days, need to remember that they and their assistants are being paid by the American people to represent the interests of all their constituents, not just the angry Republican ones.

      Why they're so angry, I'll never understand. You'd think that having had the entire federal government in their hands, these Republican gentlemen and ladies would turn their focus toward accomplishing something positive for America, instead of lashing out at imaginary "hippie" and "communist" enemies. (Source: Elko Daily Free Press)

    76. In 2005, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland conducted polling in twenty-three major countries in work commissioned by the BBC.

      One question they asked people in these countries was whether a situation in which "Europe becomes more influential than the United States in world affairs" would be seen by the person interviewed as "mainly positive" or "mainly negative."

      In 22 out of 25 countries, more respondents thought it would be "mainly positive" rather than "mainly negative" for Europe to become more influential than the United States.

    77. The beauty of science is something that scientists don't talk about very much, because, well, they're not in the business of discussing standards of beauty. Every now and then, however, a piece of scientific research just dazzles me with its gorgeousness. Most of the time, it's not the science of true geniuses that catches my eye, but rather the work of researchers who found a sparklingly good question to ask.

      I'm struck by a piece of research into water containers in India. You see, people in India are plagued, literally, by a whole bunch of nasty water-borne illnesses, and given the social and population pressures there, it's been a real challenge to do anything to solve the problem.

      Nonetheless, the local people were insisting that a tradition in their area might have some potential to prevent illness. They claimed that carrying drinking water in traditional brass containers reduced the number of water-borne illnesses. For a while, no one bothered to check this claim, but eventualy Rob Reed, from Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom, found out about it, and decided to ask whether or not there was any scientific merit to using brass containers.

      Instead of praying on it, or just using what politicians too often refer too as "common sense", Mr. Reed designed a scientific experiment to test the hypothesis that brass pots do indeed help to combat water-borne disease. And what he found was this

      Yes, indeed, brass pots fight disease causing organisms commonly found in the drinking water in India. It turns out that the brass pots release copper into the water that they hold - copper that kills bacteria like E. Coli, but is in low enough amounts to cause no harm to the humans that drink it.

      The funny thing is that, over the last couple of generations, the people of India have stopped using traditional brass containers to transport drinking water. They've switched to plastic containers because plastic is more modern, and as commercials from the Plastics Council will tell you, plastic is supposed to be a vital tool in fighting disease.

      Well, the thing is that plastic really doesn't have any anti-bacterial properties, and if bacteria like E. Coli are already in the water that you pour into a plastic jug, the plastic isn't really doing you very much good in keeping nasty germs out of your gut.

      This little piece of unexpected wisdom from the hard work of a British scientist got me thinking: Isn't it odd how easily we fall for new, untested gimmicks that are supposed to make us safer?

      I'm thinking of things like gated communities, video surveillance cameras on telephone poles in our neighborhoods, and those radio frequency emitting chips that the federal and state governments are planning on putting in our drivers' licenses and passports so that we can be tracked wherever we go.

      Do we really need these things? Oh, the Republicans who lead our state and federal governments say so, but I'm not so sure. They say that there's a new terrorist threat, but come on now, is there really? There have been terrorists around for a long time, and our government has always found some group of bad people who were on the verge of destroying us, all the way back to communist sympathizers, then pirates, and then, oh yes, all those Indians who we were told wanted to do nothing but rape our women, steal our guns, and humiliate our puppies. There's always been some group of people that we can get spooked about, if we care to be in the mood to get spooked.

      The truth is that bad things do happen, and some people are always out there, determined to hurt people. But, you know, my grandmother had a thing she used to tell me: Get to know your neighbors, invite them over to dinner, and you'll be a whole lot safer. That's a piece of traditional folk wisdom, it now occurs to me, an awful lot like the traditional wisdom in India that you're better off carrying your drinking water in brass pots than in anything else.

      Well, like the people of India, we Americans have strayed an awful lot from our traditional wisdom about security. We've replaced the simple wisdom of getting to know our neighbors with gimmicks like intercom systems that go beep, suburban fences topped with barbed wire, and drivers' licenses that send out out radio signals to let the local police know where we are at all times. The more I look at these new security arrangements, the more they seem like plastic jugs for drinking water - slick new gimmicks that aren't doing us much good at all.

    78. Here's another hint that xenophobia in certain quarters has gotten out of control:

      On the campaign trail the week before Christmas 2007, trying to demonstrate that he was the candidate of choice for Iowans, Fred Thompson heard from Janice Easley, who complained that when she called up her power company, she had to press 1 for English. She was in danger of hearing Spanish in the power company voice mail, she said: "Everything is in Spanish; it's sickening."

      Fred Thompson's response to the claim that the Spanish option in voice mail is "sickening"? "You are so, so right." (Source: Los Angeles Times December 23, 2007)

    79. The way that U.S. citizenship works is pretty simple when you get down to it: if you're born in this country, you're a citizen. Leave it to House Republican Nathan Deal to come up with a way to change that. In 2005, Deal, along with 26 others (not a single Democrat in that bunch, mind you), threw support behind H.R. 698, which would deny citizenship to American-born babies if their parents aren't themselves citizens. Such a change would move us toward the German model of citizenship, in which families who have lived in Germany for generations were denied citizenship because they lacked the "virtue" of a German bloodline.

      Even more bizarrely under this bill, if a baby is born in America of a father who is a citizen and a mother who is not, the baby is denied American citizenship if the father and mother aren't married. That's right the Republicans even want to deny babies citizenship when the father is himself a citizen. This particular lunacy isn't, mind you, a fleeting Republican effort. Bills almost identical to this one have been pushed by the GOP for years in the Congress. Fortunately, Democrats and independents have stood in their way - so far. But now the Congress is stocked not just with more Republicans, but with more Republicans so openly xenophobic and nationalistic that they feel comfortable supporting this bill in public. Republican Moral Values? Count the denial of citizenship to American babies among them.