July 2011

Crisis Averted: Debt Deal Reached

Obama and Congress manage to reach a debt deal only a day before a supposed U.S. default.

 

     President Obama spoke tonight at the White House, telling reporters that, "The leaders of both parties in both chambers have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid a default.” Amid constant posturing and in-fighting, between Democrats and Republicans, and even amongst Republicans themselves, leaders from both parties have managed to finally craft a budget plan that, for the time being at least, will avert a disastrous U.S. default. In addition, business leaders and markets that had been eyeing the possible default can breathe easier, hopefully forestalling a potential market slowdown as confidence in federal lawmakers wavered.

Which Planet is Michele Bachmann from?

Saturn Maybe?

Which planet is Michele Bachmann actually from? I know that this question is on the tips of the tongues of everyone who either believes in alien lifeforms or  at least allows for the possibility that alien lifeforms may actually exist. In fact, Michele Bachmann is so bizarre that she almost---and note that the bold emphasis on almost is for a definite reason--makes Sarah Palin look like a normal Republican candidate. 

I’m not the first to write about Michele Bachmann and her alien tendencies. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has a little theory about which planet Michele Bachmann is from, which follows the John Grey school of thought. Specifically, Ruth Martin speculates that: 

“If men are from Mars and women from Venus, Rivlin is from Earth, Of Bachmann is from Saturn. Someplace way out in the solar system and removed from reality.”

I love the idea that Michele Bachmann hails from Saturn, but as enticing of a theory as that is, I’m not so sure that I actually agree with Ruth Marcus. I don’t truthfully believe that Michele Bachmann is from Saturn. It’s just not possible. She’s too weird. I think she is probably from a different universe entirely, and not necessarily a parallel one. 

Please Help, America

We're all aware that now is a time of great need and of great struggle. There are those in the Congress who oppose actions that would save this country from an economic catastrophe. They are motivated purely by political gain from the misfortune of others and have made a habit of ignoring the needs of the American people. That's why I'm entreating you, the American public, the voters, to contact your representatives and encourage them to do what's right. We need to raise this debt ceiling, make difficult spending cuts and increase revenue by adjusting tax rates for the wealthiest among us. Make your voice heard. Write, call, email, tweet. Do whatever is necessary. And while you're at it, there are some other things the government could use some help with. If you're interested in participating in the management of your nation, here are some things you can do.

America used to be on the cutting edge of science and technology. Those things have recently fallen by the wayside and it's hurting our long-term economic prospects. That's why I, the President of the United States, am entreating you citizens to start being better at science. Really. I think you guys should study more and start applying yourselves to those disciplines. I know that government funding for research and development isn't what it could be and that things are likely to get a lot tighter for the next couple decades in that regard, but I think you can figure something out.

Debt Ceiling Plan Buffet, Pick Your Poison

Reid and Boehner square off in an attempt to find a pallatable solution to debt ceiling and budget negotiations.

    

Well, Obama and Biden got together and they came up with a plan to cut spending by $4 trillion. Republicans didn't like it for two reasons; it raised tax revenue and it was written by Obama. So the "grand deal", as the President referred to it, was scrapped. Then Boehner and Obama crafted a plan, and by most accounts it was a good plan. However, the Republican Kindergarten class in the House voted it down; again, it had raised tax revenues. The Ryan Budget released in May, named for House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, includes major cuts in entitlements, while maintaining Bush-era tax cuts and even expanding them a little. That makes it a no-go for House Democrats. Now House Speaker John Boehner's plan goes up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan, and Boehner's is found wanting...but it's not that simple. (When is it?)

Wells Fargo is Being Accused of Racism in the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis

Wells Fargo Allegedly Targeted African-Americans for Sub-Prime Loans

More news is emerging about the sub-prime mortgage crisis and this time the spotlight is on Wells Fargo and the news is not pretty. Wells Fargo is about to be served papers by the Justice Department for taking advantage of African-American home-buyers and encouraging them to take out sub-prime loans at higher interest rates, even when the customers would have qualified for better interest rates. 

The Citizens for National Security Has a New List of Possible Terrorists

Guess which religion most of the suspected terrorists are?

During the 1950’s, anyone with a  political affiliation--real or imaginary--believed to related to Communism was routed out and thrown to the coals by Joseph McCarthy and his cronies. Since 9-11, the list of suspects today watched by the government has changed, and now includes a long list of Muslims believed to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Only this particular list wasn’t made by the government. Instead, Citizens for National Security has compiled the list so that concerned citizens can keep a watch on their neighbors. Because the list includes 6,000 individual names--I am guessing the individuals are all Muslim--Citizens for National Security has stepped far beyond the bounds of a neighborhood watch group. 

The group’s website looks as if it could be an official government website from Homeland Security. Instead, the organization is a non-profit who accepts tax-deductible contributions. The organization’s main objective is to educate the public on terrorist methods. Citizens for National Security also offers many seminars and government material from the State Department on terrorism, terrorists, and terrorist activities. 

After I read a bit of the Citizens for National Security’s website, a few things ran quickly through my head. First, this organization is truthfully scary in that they seem to believe that anyone can stop home-grown terrorists or Jihadists from committing acts of terrorism. In effect, they seem to believe that anyone can be playing the role of Keifer Sutherland on “24.” The second scary thing about the organization is that it looks official when it is not. 

The Citizens for National Security announced that their list of Fifth-Column terrorists would be for government officials only, but the fact that the organization has collected a list like this to begin with and that the organization is educating the public even more about the threat of terrorism is scary. 

Defining Terrorism in American News Media

It's all too easy to overlay a consistent scapegoat on world events. America loves itself a reliable bad guy. That guy used to be Russian, the red threat of communism and the vague but persistent fear of a nuclear attack. Now, we've adopted a new standard. Now, it's just a Muslim man--or several. Any will do.

 

We seem to get saddled with a nasty case of cognitive dissonance whenever a bad guy pops up in the world that doesn't fit our model of villainy. Take Norway, for example. The American news media was speculating--with no founding whatsoever--that the recent attacks on Oslo were somehow the work of Islamic fundamentalists. Terror has become so synonymous with Islam in the American cultural lexicon that it automatically leads journalists to make such assumptions. 

 

Even now, after the perpetrator of the awful attacks was shown to be a white, right-wing, Christian man, the speculation remains. There's still an entire column on the Washington Post that discusses why al-Qaeda is probably responsible for the attack. More recent news stories, while no longer able to suggest that Muslims were directly involved, emphasize that the attack was in the style of jihadists. Because Muslim extremists apparently have a copyright on violence itself now. 

 

How do people get away with this kind of reporting? Even when a Muslim-hating Christian kills civilians, it's still somehow a Muslim act. Even when his horrific acts were in protest of the growing cultural diversity of his country. Do people still doubt that racism underlies much of our official rhetoric? Put a white man in the bad guy chair and journalists scramble to make him fit their rigid expectations. 

Debt Plan S'mores Concessions

Mr. President,

We, the men and women of the United States Congress, are pleased that you have been willing to come to the table so often and so diligently concerning our nation's current debt crisis. As we stand on the eve of one of the greatest compromises in the history of our admittedly contentious country, we would like to take this opportunity to ensure that all parties involved are aware of the nature of the concessions they have agreed to make in relation to our economic dealings. Please observe the following and know that a copy of this document has been delivered to every member of the House and Senate, as well as to every member of your cabinet.

Michelle Bachman’s “Homeschool Army” is Out to Get Us!

After reading this article at Mother Jones (and skimming its comments), I just can’t stop hitting my desk with my head. Where to even begin? The piece itself doesn’t attack homeschoolers as much as the comment writers do, so I suppose I was thankful for that; but the entire premise of the article—Bachman’s Army, not to be confused with the much cooler though perhaps less relevant Dumbledore’s Army—was enough to perpetuate the homeschooling myth that so many Americans (myself once included, I must admit) buy:

All Homeschoolers are Brainwashed Religious Zombies.

This is, of course, untrue. The number of homeschoolers in America continues to grow every year, and the near-two million of us are not brainwashed zombies straight from Jesus Camp. (As many people noted, not all of the kids in the film were homeschooled in the first place; it doesn’t take homeschooling to brainwash kids by any means.) Many families homeschool in order to help their children have more opportunities, to succeed in life rather than in the life the status quo deems necessary, because they can’t afford private schools, and for hundreds of other reasons. We homeschool, for example, because we do not agree with the premise of public schooling in the first place, and we have a very different definition of what it means to be successful in the world. We also want to foster creativity, critical thinking, and above all else, the things our daughter is interested in rather than what someone else thinks she should be interested in. Public school is very limiting; homeschooling leaves the world open for learning.

But I digress. You see, this MJ article was posted on Facebook by several organizations I like—progressive politics groups and a homeschool support group. Both did not like the article, but for different reasons—and both made me feel very alienated and angry.

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