Sunday, August 29, 2010

'Ground Zero Mosque': What Team Do You Want to Play On?

The signs are out.

The protesters are screaming.

Foam forms around the mouths:

"You can't worship like that here!"


Am I talking about the NYC mosque protests or Westboro Baptist Church protests?

They really are the same thing:
  • Group of people gets a bunch of signs,
  • Goes to a place where people want to worship in a different manner,
  • Lets out all their frustrations.

Sounds great, looks wonderful, doesn't it?


The mosque issue is one where a line gets drawn in the sand. Either you are for it or you are against it. Those against it include proponents of the "moderate" or "reasonable" position of, "Well, they really should to move it."

Ask those "reasonable" people when this mosque may be built at this location. Are they answering with a fixed time?
There is no fixed time.

Ask those "reasonable" people where this mosque may be built now. Are they answering with a fixed place? What is the radius from Ground Zero beyond which Muslims may build?
There is no fixed place.

A right isn't granted to a people only when the majority says it is OK. A right may be exercised at any time or place.

Either you are for Freedom of Religion or you are against it. That is the line.


If you are playing on the Westboro Baptist team on this issue, then no matter how quiet and reasonable-sounding you are, you are allowing the bigots across the country to score a big touchdown. Your position is allowing the more vociferous on your team the space to put the Muslims away.

Think about it: because of your voicing of the soft you-have-to-move-it opinion combined with the loud and angry Westboro crowd, you may actually get the Muslims to cow to the supposed majority in New York City. Congratulations.

Will we start this whole charade again when a group of Muslims wishes to rent space in the new World Trade Center (if it completes before the Rapture) for a prayer area?

Now when a group of Muslims wishes to open a mosque somewhere else, maybe in Tennessee or in your neck of the woods, those fighting the Muslims know they can beat these people back. Get the signs out, start screaming, and those people in the funny hats will go away.

You don't have to say anything. After all, it isn't like Muslims are Americans or anything.


Now that you have set up a second-class citizenship status for Muslims (and don't kid yourself, because you have), how are we going to manage this?

Are we going to have special laws for practitioners of Islam?
Or will these series of laws apply to anyone non-Christian?
We can't leave Jewish people out, so they are in.

And what about the atheists? Are they "preferable" enough?
We'll vote on those guys.

Anyway, we need to set up a bunch of laws to allow people of the preferred faiths better access to the rights over those of the non-preferred faiths.

When you allow this type of pressure to be successfully applied to a group of Muslims, this is where we are going. It is not ridiculous to speculate on our future this way.

Can you say Nuremberg Laws?


Is that the America you really want?

What team do you want to play on?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Professional Left = Amateur Hour

Robert Gibbs is absolutely correct in his assessment of the Professional Left. Instead of incessantly whining about Gibbs' statement or what the president hasn't done for them, maybe the Professional Left should take this as a gauntlet being thrown down.

I like to watch MSNBC when I can. But if I want to watch on the weekend, MSNBC is programmed with All-Prison-All-The-Time. If I go over to FOX, they are grinding out their professional right viewpoint -- 24x7. They have more credibility, by just being in the game.

The professional left is very good a creating web sites that will accept your credit card numbers. But they need to pony up in the national debate instead of complaining that the White House isn't doing everything for them. (Personally, I am ticked off the president hasn't come to my house to walk my dog.) The professional left needs to step up.

BTW, the professional left are not the activists who volunteered and voted for Obama. It is the outfits that did the Organizing.

The professional right has done a fantastic job of engaging and enraging their base. You know what -- good for them. They kept their feet moving when they were down and did not give up. They have earned a seat at the table.

Last year the Tea Party disrupted Town Hall after Town Hall. They intimidated their way into the public eye. The Tea Party has moved the ball significantly to the right, almost to the point where we lost the health care reform debate.

The professional left looked down at these people as they did it. The professional left needed to organize the people who helped Obama win the White House into a force that would counter these groups. The professional left did no such thing. In 2009 they left their field of play.

The Tea Party, as documented by members of the professional left, was in part bankrolled or astro-turfed, by the professional right. All the professional left did with their information was point and make snarky comments. What have they done to support and nurture the counter-balance that is needed? Hey, we could use some astro-turf on this side of the field over here.

If the professional left wants to be taken seriously, it needs to pony up and organize with the same full-throated intensity the Tea Party has done.

Until then -- it is nothing but hot air blowing in from an amateur left.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Against the NYC Mosque? You are not an American.

If you are against the NYC Mosque

You may be a citizen
But you are not an American.

The Right Wing of this country has made an absolute art of claiming what their version of American is. They have used it to bully and bludgeon their way for decades. It is time to use their own words against them.


What is an American?

If you are born here or take the oath you are a citizen.

We need to define what an American is. Since there are plenty of people running around accusing people of not being an American (obviously, myself included) we need a minimum fixed definition.

Here's mine:

American - one who believes in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as a way of managing our society.

Since the Bill of Rights' First Amendment is about Freedom of Religion I argue that is more important than say the repeal of Prohibition. I argue that believing in and defending the First Amendment is the baseline defining characteristic of being an American. (Although, I defend beer over most wines.)

If you oppose the NYC Mosque (or ANY house of worship), you are opposing the Freedom to Religion.

Therefore, you cannot be an American.

(First semester logic is at work here.)


Counters to the Mosque:

"You are insensitive to those who lost family members on 9/11."

Then Insensitivity to those people must also include:

· The failure to rebuild the World Trade Center - bigger - stronger - more powerful - than the one knocked down on 9/11. We caved in.

· Not going after the people responsible for this debacle. These criminals are still on the loose.

· Going to war with the wrong country

How do rank values on the roster of "insensitivity" when compared to building a house of worship well out of sight of Ground Zero?

"It is too soon"

· If not now then when? If Martin Luther King listened to those folks, we'd still have apartheid in this country.

"It is too close"

· If not there then where? New Jersey? (Then they'd need spiritual healing for sure). The East River? (Yeah, we get you on this.)


Thinking about insensitivities, how about we look at how "sensitive" the rest of "us" are to Muslim America.

In regular discourse these folks are held in the same disdain that Italians were held a century ago. Italians must all be linked to the mob somehow. During WW II the Italians, and Germans, and those Japanese fortunate enough to serve our country had to perform over and above what was demanded of others because their heritage put them into question.

Look at the sensitivities for a moment. We have no problem profiling "them" in airports or public places just because they don't look like "us" or worship like "us".

You can accuse me of being insensitive to those who lost people on 911, but put into context of how insensitive the rest of society is to Muslim America.

Every time we take a little shot or jab at "them", I start to think about something from my own faith, Catholicism.

Matthew 5:11

'Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account'.

(If you hate these people so much, why are you giving them so many blessings?)
I am sure there are passages of the Koran that speak to the same thing.

You can accuse me of being insensitive, but how sensitive are we to these people. Muslims in New York did nothing to deserve this. NOTHING - NADA.

These people continue to lose respect and dignity at the hands of those who lost loved ones.

Please, tell me who is really insensitive?


Another thing that gets lost here.

We are talking about NYC. There is a higher concentration of African Americans in our cities. Many have converted to Islam. Their families have been here at least 100 years before my families showed up from Italy and Ireland at the end of the 19th Century.

I could make the argument they are more American than I am by that virtue alone. But we don't and shouldn't work that way. Once you are an American - you are an American.

You get the rights and should perform the responsibilities that go along with that.

So if those served by this mosque are Americans with bloodlines that run thru cotton fields 250 years ago, or thru a boat ride from Pakistan, or a jet from Egypt, or even a recent convert to this faith - it doesn't make a difference.

How sensitive is it of us to lord rights over our fellow citizens to give them the "OK" as to where and when they can worship?

If we can lord over this part of our population, are they really rights?

You may be a citizen -

But you are not an American.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stop the Rich Guy Discount

The GOP wants to destroy Social Security. We can quibble about their language, but this is what they want to do. It is being derailed as we speak.

Congressman John Boehner stated that he wants us to work until we are 70 so that we can fund Social Security. Since Boehner appears to spend most of his time at the beach, I think it is in bounds to tell him to "pound sand".

The Social Security Tax is 6.2% on the first $106,800 earned.

Hmm, all Congresspeople get $174,000 per year.

It's Math Time!!! (there are some rounding issues in the chart.)


Fair Tax is what everyone should be paying in a fair world.
Capped Tax is what people are paying today.
The difference in tax is simply Fair Tax - Capped Tax
The Effective Tax Rate is what those earning over the 106k limit are actually paying. What does $6,621 as the portion of Annual Salary (less than 1% for a $1 million baby)?
Tax Rate Difference is the difference between the Standard Rate and the Effective Rate.
The Rich Guy Discount is the amount of a break the rich guy gets.

I hope this ticks you off.

What this table demonstrates is an inverted graduated tax. That means the more you earn -- the less you pay. (Kinda the opposite of fair -- right.) Those who have the least ability to pay are hit with the brunt of this tax.

I am not proposing soaking the rich. I am proposing stopping the hammering of the middle class.

Making us work until 70 is the breaking point. The Democrats need to make this issue -- Removing the Social Security Tax Cap -- the focal point for the election.

Here is where I am going:

  • If I gotta pay it -- You gotta pay it -- They gotta pay it.
  • Tax Fairness. Is it fair that a $1 million baby gets a tax rate almost 90% less than someone making 100K?
  • For those that say Congress' rules should apply to the rest of us. Their Effective Tax Rate (what they are actually paying) is 3.8% while those of us not so fortunate get the 6.2% rate.
  • This table makes the case for removing the Cap on this tax BEFORE John Boehner demands we work until 70.
  • President Obama promised that those earning less than 200k not have their taxes raised. That means in order to keep that promise those earning over 200k would be taxed at 6.2% for those monies over 200k. For the time being the flat amount of 6621 would remain in effect for those earning from 106k to 200k. Once you hit 200k - it is 6.2% on all of it.

If the Democrats want to win the election in November then John Boehner has given them more than ample opportunity. The Party of Donkeys needs to get in line and hammer the Party of No for even thinking this out loud with the current tax structure in place.

Tax Fairness will attack the GOP at it's strongest (?) point, which they think is finances and taxes. You want to vote your pocketbook then you have to vote for tax fairness. You won't get the entire Tea Party over to their side, but it will pressure the Tea Party inside the GOP.

If John Boehner wants the rest of us to work until 70 -- he needs to be put out of business along with the rest of the GOP and the Rich Guy Discount.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coffee Party Needs More Caffeine

I wrote about the Coffee Party (link) some months ago. In many respects the time for this group is here. However, there is a stylistic change that I would suggest.

They are too nice, almost militantly nice. In trying to be civil (a very subjective word) they are allowing themselves to be steamrolled. One needs to be nice, but one sometimes needs to show the teeth in front of the tongue. You don't have to bite everyone's head off, but it is valuable that your opponent knows there is an irritated pit bull on the leash behind you. At that point, opponents tend to negotiate differently.

Cases in point:

The ARC. A former chairman of a large cable company, the Governor of Pennsylvania, at least one Senator, and a number of township supervisors wanted to build a Hotel, Conference Center, and Museum (The ARC or America Revolution Center) inside Valley Forge National Park. The neighbors opposed it. They got up on their hind legs. It got nasty. Political Parties split in half and realigned. It got legal. It got all over the press. It took almost 2 years. Those advocating the facility locally were trounced in township elections. We made the case. The end result of this: The National Park Service recently completed a land swap with the Cable Guy where The ARC will be built in the historical district of downtown Philly. (I will go to the wall for Congressman Joe Sestak because of his involvement in fairly brokering this deal.)

Lax and the school board. I have 2 sons who play lacrosse (I think they are pretty good, but, I am the dad...). Lacrosse (or Lax) is a rough sport. You run around with sticks and beat the crap out of one another while putting a ball in a goal. (Snarks aside - it is a very intelligent game during which kids will be much less likely to get a concussion or knee injuries than football. I can go on forever, but I digress.)

Our, now former (they retired him with a huge wallet full of cash), school district athletic director is a football guy. He showed nothing but disdain for the sport. When parents like me asked for a number of reasonable things from him, we were blown off. We asked for things like not scheduling 4 games in 5 days (did I mention this is a rough sport) and access to the football stadium (the kids were playing on the worst possible fields the district could offer). We were blown off. Looking further into the issue, we found this athletic director had entered into contracts with a local parochial school situated outside the school district for the football stadium. A varsity sport was being denied access to its own fields in favor of outsiders. Just the taxation issues should give reasons to double-clutch here. You get the picture.

The parents group wanted to be nice. "Oh, we have to play politics. We have to be civil." They did nothing to stand up to this guy. For the next year - they fired the coach - the program got fewer resources from a field standpoint, and the kids were still dangerously scheduled. The AD laughed all the way through. He's gone, but the damage was done. (I have little respect or time for those who would allow their own kids to be put in a bad spot and do nothing.)

My recent experience with the Coffee Party is spotty. The Tea Party recently gathered at Independence Hall for a Race Summit headlined by Andrew Breitbart. I attempted to get people to an alternate rally to stand up to the Tea People about 2 miles away.

When I posted the invite on the Coffee Party's Facebook Page the outrage was forceful and, should I say, uncivil. I took down my invite with the thoughts of these people alternating between being militantly nice ("Oh we can't be mean. You can't stand up to these people. You should not ask US, the terminally nice to do this." ) and being too absorbed in their own causes to know what is going on (kinda like the scene in Life of Brian where organizers had more venom for rival groups than the Romans).

Currently the Coffee Party has an initiative to contact members of Congress, Coffee Campaign for Fair Elections (link). My questions about this cause are two-fold. First, what is the metric of success? Second, what will this group do if they are blown off by members of Congress?

Unilaterally relinquishing the ability to forcefully speak truth to power is a huge self-inflicted handicap. On the Coffee Party's web site is an article about "Reversing the Coffee Party's decline" (link). Various people are posting their thoughts, but I think the problem is the same for the Democratic Party mucky-mucks as it is for the Coffee Party. It is about harnessing the anger and rage we all feel at the public discourse. These are legit emotions; suppressing or neutering them does no good. People who tried going to Coffee Party Meetings may feel that the organization, while nice, lacks the will, spirit, or know-how to fight. Maybe outsiders looking in don't think it knows how to get what it wants. Therefore it seems like a waste of time.

The Tea Party almost derailed Healthcare reform by harnessing their anger and directing it. The lacrosse parents lost because they would not, or could not, or were intimidated into not standing up. One needs to speak up as did the people in the case of The ARC neighborhood.

You can play songs like "Get Up, Stand Up", but what does it mean? Yes, you can stand up. A defensive center in basketball stands in the lane ready to take a charge, but if the opponent slides around him - they will get an easy layup. It is only when that center can deliver a hard foul or two, that the offensive player will modify their behavior. Splattering offenders on the floor does that.

No one is going to give your rights just by being nice if you aren't going to stand and fight. I am sorry; being nice inflicts no pain on a Congressman that simply slides around you for the easy layup.

I prefer something along the lines of Gil Scott Heron, "When Push Comes to Shove (We'll Find Exactly What You're Made Of)".

I think The Coffee Party will gain more traction when it shows some teeth.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Honor Those Fighting Without Guns?

The start of the story...

6 Americans Killed In Afghanistan, Part Of Medical Team

KATHY GANNON | 08/ 7/10 12:50 PM |

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Ten members of a medical team, including six Americans, were shot and killed by militants as they were returning from providing eye treatment and other health care in remote villages in northern Afghanistan, a spokesman for the team said Saturday.

full link here

It's a big headline about another tragedy.

We are at war.

As a civilian, I don't know the ins and outs of getting someone interred at Arlington. (Join me in contacting your congressperson on this if you like the idea.)

I know American Heroes when I see them. It is ironic these docs were killed by ideologically blind people because they are bringing vision care to those in need.

Should these brave Americans receive the highest military honors?

Not every American fighting this war wears a drab cammo uniform as they tote ammo or look for IEDs. It takes a large amount of courage to suit up in full gear to go over into theater where you are a target because there is an American flag on your uniform.

Any military person worth their salt can tell you the advantages and disadvantages of a particular weapon. When it is to be used and what it will do. No weapon works in every situation.

It takes an equal amount of guts to do it without a gun. I seem to remember these wars are for the hearts and minds of people.

The weapon of the open extended hand asking for trust maybe the deadliest one to those who believe in fighting to the death. The disadvantage of using this weapon is no physical defense because; by its nature you are undefended.

That is also its greatest strength. If you want trust - you must give it. (You can only generate so much trust holding a pistol.) The advantage is, because you can trust someone, you can open the mind of the enemy and make them look at us as humans trying to help.

This team was adept at using this weapon, but paid the ultimate price. These people advanced American (and western) interests with their lives and sacrifice.

Did they sacrifice themselves for the cause of peace?
Were they trying to show the best that America and the West has to offer them?
They laid down their lives trying to better the planet.

Isn't that what the Honor of Arlington is all about?

It should be our nation's honor to have them sleep there.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Targeting President Obama Is Not Some Game

The Church wants to take shots at the President for fun and profit.

Check out the story linked here about an image of President Obama being used as target practice.

This is the Coal mining region about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

From the story -
(Pastor) Rev. Jim Prior said he didn't learn of the game until a parishioner complained after the carnival. He said he "most certainly would have put a stop to it" had he known sooner. "We're used to this kind of bigotry and prejudice, and we abhor it but it's the way of the world," Prior said. "Even the Divine Father himself is vilified in today's culture."

This is a load of garbage.

This pastor is responsible for what goes on at his parish and how it raises funds. If he did not know what was going on here that makes him totally incompetent. In addition, this speaks to the people ponying up the cash to take their shots at the President. Are they are that numb to what they are doing?

The Bigotry Card.  When St John Neumann faced real bigotry in Philadelphia as the Cardinal close to 200 years ago he did something positive about it. When the public schools refused admissions to Catholics, he built an alternate school system that allowed Catholic kids to get an education. That is facing down the bigots. The Philadelphia Catholic School system is alive today - well outlasting the Catholic bigots.

This Church made a profit from attacking the President. Using the excuse that somebody else is taking shots at the Divine Father is even more reason NOT to allow this. What part of the Gospel goes into - it is OK if everyone else is doing it - it is OK by God the Father?

This is just the variation of "everybody else is doing it, why can't I"?

My kids come to either my wife or me with that argument, they stop talking because they know they just lost their case - automatic cause for rejection with no chance of appeal.

How about another facet of this? I was taught in the Catholic Schools to be Christ-like in what I do. I seem to remember a guy walking into the temple and turning over the vendors' stands for doing business in the House of His Father. This is even more egregious; the Church is advocating physical harm to the President and taking cash for it - in the name of God's House! This Pastor wants sensitivity towards the plight of Catholics. He needs to show some towards what is happening in this country.

When this Church puts our leaders out there as a target for physical violence, this Church, the Catholic Church, is feeding into the "kind of bigotry and prejudice" that is driving our national dialog into the gutter.

What is it going to take for this to stop? A lunatic taking a shot at the President? Harming the President? Or the unmentionable or unthinkable?

At that point the Church will attempt to offer condolences as it shrugs it collective shoulders with it's palms turned skyward; the "We aren't responsible" defense. However, the Church is now complicit in the de-sensitizing our society towards this very event.

Is this what it means to be a Catholic these days?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Greed Motivation and the Bush Tax Bomb

Ok, at the end of the year the Bush Tax Cuts expire. We need to rename this The Bush Tax Bomb as the Congress thinks about making this permanent.

It is just like the Bush Economic Bomb that exploded in September of 2008 that took out our finances. Could any of us imagine had the GOP gotten the economy to sputter another two months more into November and exploded AFTER the election of Barack Obama? (You think the GOP is threatening impeachment now...)

The Tea Party People (Taxed Enough Already) are being irresponsible when they want to eliminate taxes and increase military. Unfortunately we are not taxed enough already. We need to pay for what we bought.

The government dumped huge amounts of money into the economy in terms of stimulus with the idea, "We are going to kick start the economy." Paul Krugman has it right when he talks about this cash not being enough. But the problem now is this stuff appears to be hoarded. Those who got the capital are sitting on it.

That is why the economy sputters.

The GOP plan for November is to lower or eliminate taxes -- look what happened with Reagan in the 1980's!

The counter to that: Clinton raised taxes in 1993 -- look what happened - economic growth!!


What is not factored in is the Greed Motivation. Greed motivates segments of our population; the greedy has money because that is their desire in life; and indirect form of control. However, if you say the government will take that money in the form of taxes, they get apoplectic. The greedy need control.

The government needs to de-incentivize these hoarders. If you are sitting on too much of the stuff, yeah, we are going to tax it so you don't have it. The rest of the country needs it. There is a fixed amount of this stuff printed. It does no one any good for you to sit on it. If you want to invest it, get the money into circulation. You won't get taxed when you do that.

Go back to what Capitalism really is:an economic system dependent upon the flow of capital.

If a segment of the economy kills the flow of cash, the whole economy withers on the vine. No one is saying you can't make a profit -- please do it to the best of your ability. Put steam in the engine to make our society go. But, if you are going to stop access to the fuel tank -- the rest of society needs to take action in the form of government intervention -- TAXES.

You know it is not unlike a foreign country saying we have oil reserves and we may not to give access to you. Neo-cons from both Bush administrations basically said, our society needs to take action in the form of government intervention -- WARS.

To those who are vehemently against any form of taxation, if you allow the Bush Tax Bomb to explode by making it permanent, when do we pay for the 2 wars we are currently fighting?