Archive for the 'My Background' Category

31
Mar
09

Atheist Billboards Going Up in DFW Area

I’m pretty pumped! Monday, the Coalition of Reason will unveiled two godless billboards along busy interstates in the DFW area:

godless-billboard

The Coalition of Reason has already launched the campaign, aimed at uniting non-believing groups, in Philadelphia and Denver.

I’m part of the leadership of the Fort Worth Free Thinkers and we are joining with the North Texas Church of Freethought, Metroplex Atheists, Dallas-Plano Atheists and more to form the DFW Coalition of Reason .

The reaction of the area will certainly be interesting as this is an obvious headquarters for Christocentric religiosity. You’d be surprised, however, to see how quickly our community of non-believers (athiests, agonstics, non-theists, rationalits, etc., etc.) is growing.

Certainly, I hope one of the results of this four-week media campaign is greater organization of non-believers so that our voice is heard amongst the cacophony of American diversity. For too long, we have allowed one specific lunatic fringe group to dominate politics and accepted culture in our society and that must stop. The pendulum is swinging away from those who would seek to imprison the rest of us with their beliefs. We will be the silent minority no more.

And speaking of minority, I’d like to remind everybody that religious unaffiliated is the fasted growing “religious” group in the U.S. Doesn’t that just give you a warm, cozy feeling inside?

If you’re in Texas and would like to find a group of non-believers in your area, visit this Texas Secular Network site for a list. Some groups are more stingently athiest and organized, but as for us Fort Worth Free Thinkers, we just like good beer and good conversation and rational thinking. Peace out.

03
Nov
08

I’m Voting For Barack Obama

Surprise of the century, I know!

While I had been considering Nader in order to support the multi-party system, he is a unfortunately a write-in candidate here in Texas – forcing me to question the immediate efficacy of such a vote. All candidates on my sample ballot are Repub, Dem or Libertarian, so it seems the major parties here in Texas are succeeding in keeping our political choices as narrow as possible. A shame for democracy, really.

Nader’s write-in status, however, did not itself determine my vote.

The widespread efforts of Republican voter suppression did. Republicans across the nation try to have hundreds of thousands of names purged from voter lists, fight efforts to increase early voting availability (salute to Charlie Crist, middle finger to Georgia’s secretary of state) and fund disinformation campaigns to confuse and intimidate potential voters. Our saving grace this year is that the secretaries of state in Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and (thank christ) Ohio are Democrat. Sorry, bitches, no Katherine Harris replay here.

Almost all voter suppression efforts originate in the nasty little minds of Republicans, who have shown election after election that they hold winning of higher import than democracy. How ridiculously wretched that Bush claims is presidential clarion call is to spread democracy when he has helped his party be an agent of democracy poisoning.

The Right likes to flail their hands in the air screaming Voter Fraud. Yet, even if quite a few false registrations were turned in, it would be an unlikely realization that those registrations would result in actual votes. Republicans – who know this – would prefer to dump thousands upon thousands of legitimate voters in order to prevent a few false votes from occurring. It is a charade. A pathetic, dishonorable, horrific charade given the historic fight to provide us with such a freedom.

I find it harder and harder to relate to the Republican Party as a whole and my respect for the organization has plummeted since my days as a freshman member of the College Republicans.

So, I’m voting for Obama – for all the regular reasons: I agree with many of his policies, I believe he would be infinitely better as president than McCain, I would rather cut off my little toe than see Sarah Palin so close to the presidency, I want to help protect civil liberties and have the utmost concern for the next three Supreme Court appointees, I believe Obama to be an extremely thoughtful man, my consideration as a voter is not just for myself, but my fellow Americans and fellow citizens of the world, Obama would be of much greater benefit to the environment, etc., etc., etc.

But, I’m also voting for Obama as a big FUCK YOU to the Republican Party. As long as they are party who practices widespread voter suppression, as long as they are a party who views fair democracy as an obstacle, as long as they are the party who would rather steal elections than win them outright and smile at the freedom those before us have earned, I will vote against them. I will raise my voice against them. I will fight them every election.

Unfortunately, Texas will send their electoral delegates to support McCain. I’m sure all of you heard that a fourth of Texans still believe Obama is a Muslim – so that gives you an idea of the political education of our fine citizenry. As of this late date, the GOP is running Jeremiah Write ads every few minutes calling Obama too radical and too risky. I’m glad they’ve decided to waste their money in this media market since they’re basically (sadly) preaching to the choir here.

So, I will vote Obama and hope he can fulfill much of what he has promised. And I’m not simply talking universal health care. I’m talking competence and consideration and even-handedness. It will be so difficult for him to achieve many of his lofty ambitions in the face of the massive destruction left by Bush and Cheney militarily, economically, in the area of checks and balances and widespread corruption at the Executive Branch.

I believe Obama will take it home tomorrow night and the majority of us can collectively breathe a sigh of relief and lift a finally-steady hand holding a glass of champagne in celebration. But I’m looking past tomorrow and at the next four years and I’m cautiously optimistic. While the Republican death squads will emerge from their mire within seconds of an Obama victory – this time the majority of the country and overwhelming numbers of global neighbors are supporting him, watching him and simply hoping.

Here we go. Just breathe. And vote. And then breathe. It’s time.

11
Oct
08

OMFG!!!! SHOUT OUT, UT!!!

Holy Shit! The Longhorns just beat the Sooners! I thought our asses were going to be handed to us! Wooooohoooooooooooooooo!!!! Ten point lead over those sonsabitches!!! Yeehaw, beeyotch!!! Good job, guys – you made my college football season! It’s time for a beer! Oh wait – I’m already drinking one!!

okay, i’m done.

11
Oct
08

In Defense of Non-Fruitcake McCain Supporters

(I was going to blog about this last night, but I’m vehemently opposed to my own drunk blogging and am so thankful I was able to resist the urge. You should be, too.)

Alright, alright, alright.

I enjoy watching the freakjobs at the McCain rallies as much as anyone. It is a rare thing for the underlying elements of hate in America to find such a bright spotlight revealing their uneducated, intolerant, embarrassingly unAmerican ugliness. It’s like watching Taxicab Confessions. I feel so much better about myself and life choices after watching. A serene, elitist, almost voyeuristic satisfaction, you could call it.

But these are not the McCain supporters I know. And blogging from deep in Republican Country, with a family full of Repubs, I have a fairly qualified opinion. Most of the McCain supporters I know could either give you an informed run-down of the politically conservative policies with which they agree or wouldn’t vote for a Democrat whether he/she was white, black, purple, polka-dotted or born of a virgin mother.

They do not, however, believe Obama is a terrorist, friend-of-terrorists, an Arab, a Muslim, guilty of treason, think he should be killed or are deathly afraid of an Obama presidency. Granted some of the older Republicans ’round these parts have a problem with the color of Obama’s skin – but none, NONE of the younger Republicans could care less. They’re much more concerned with limited government and free market ideals and strict Constitutional interpretation. And I get that.

From time to time I hear a few say they think Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama. They are lying; she proved them wrong anyhow with her recent media interviews. Conservative commentator after conservative commentator is feeling the need to cleanse their soul with confessional editorials decrying Palin’s qualifications. And rightly so. McCain did not put Country First with that pick. Which is so ironic, since the VP hopeless continually accuses Obama of using Change for career purposes after McCain sold out the country for the sake of his presidential ambitions with his utterly horrific choice of Palin over Repub candidates infinitely more qualified.

And stirring wackos of any kind into a frenzy isn’t healthy for anyone, anytime, anywhere – so I am sincerely hoping the campaign sees fit amidst their desperation to spay Palin. After reading recent comments from Rick Davis not wanting their campaign to be a rerun of CNBC and Nicole Wallace accusing Obama of insulting McCain supporters, it’s not looking good. But a girl can hope.

And after enjoying the videos of McCain nutjobs with a naughty little glee in the detriment they are serving the very man they want to lead the country, I felt the need to cleanse my soul as well.

Like that cool strawberry-blonde who writes for Time magazine said on Rachel Maddow last night, it’s the fringe crazies who go to rallies. Thus, the camera is only capturing the worst element of McCain supporters – which are a much smaller fraction than the media is illustrating. My friends, family and associates are not idiotic retards without a properly functioning brain cell. They are not fans of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. They are reasonable, considerate, intelligent registered voters who simply happen to be supporting the worst presidential frontrunner this election cycle. Hopefully, baby jeezus will forgive them. I’m crossing my fingers.

07
Oct
08

Go Negative, McCain! And Then Go Home!

With only 28 days left in the election, I’m hearing a lot of people saying they can’t wait until this is all over. Granted, these people are all anti-Obama. But, all politics all the time can be hard on people who are not political junkies. Unlike me.

I’m reveling in this constant political news stream. Even all the mud-slinging can’t rain on my parade. I suppose this is because the person I do not want to win will have to pull a rainbow with a pot of gold out of his ass to take home first place. After constant analysis of the men before us, I have to admit that I’m more ANTI-MCCAIN than PRO-OBAMA and really wish the left wouldn’t romanticize Obama because he’s going to have such a cesspool of crap leftover from Bush to be an extremely transcendent president – at least in his first term. Obama does have less experience than other viable Democratic candidates, his FISA vote pissed me off, he’s against gay marriage, he supports faith-based initiatives and has other “issues” which have garnered my disappointment. But as we say every four years about our respective candidates, “He’s a helluva lot better than the other guy.”

Also, this is the first time it looks like I’ll be on the winning side of a presidential election. I’ll admit it – I voted Dole in ’96, would have voted Bush in 2000 (was out of the country and didn’t get my shit together for an absentee ballot), and voted Kerry in ’04. After growing up in Texas, I was originally a Republican, but naturally moved to the left as I grew more informed – first as a social liberal/fiscal conservative, then even more to the left as I realized the lack of financial regulation results in the United Corporatocracy of America.

I’m not a straight-ticket voter by any means and support the multi-party system more than the Democratic Party, which is why I still may vote Nader in the general election as Texas is almost guaranteed to fall into McCain’s pocket despite the switch of Hispanic voters to the Democratic side. If Texas were a toss-up, I would by all means vote for Obama. Either way, I support a McCain loss above all.

Which is why I love his negative attacks. And Palin’s for that matter.

If they want to load their stump speeches with tales of domestic unrest during the turbulent 60’s – ahem, FORDEE years ago – while the U.S. is embroiled in two wars and the major financial crisis of our times, that is peachy with me. It only ensures a greater loss for them come November. There are legitimate economic policy disputes between McCain and Obama. McCain has every opportunity to present to voters a forward-looking, encouraging picture of where he wants to take the country.

Instead, he calls Obama a liar and dishonestly claims Obama wants to avoid answering questions about his record.

It’s not working. And it won’t work.

The ridiculous charade of McCain’s campaign has found their credibility on a downward slope that has paid little attention to the poll numbers. Instead of a plausible campaign on policies, McCain has given us infamous cannon fodder of stunts: the ads linking Obama to Paris and Britney, naming Palin his running mate, one dishonest ad after another – including an ad that claimed Obama wanted to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners, repeating the lie that the surge was responsible for the decrease in violence in Iraq, once again trying to win an election on his POW experience, the fake suspension of his campaign and attempt to take credit for a bailout legislation that failed to materialize according to McCain’s timetable, and – most recently – linking Obama to William Ayers’ activities decades ago. His campaign isn’t legitimate, it’s a joke.

The problem for McCain? The internet has provided voters quick and easy access to fact-based information, allowing people to call bullshit much earlier on lies for the sake of political expediency. Stunts are far more transparent than they were just four years ago. Would the Swiftboaters have succeeded under the current umbrella of the proliferation of information? I don’t want to give American voters too much credit, but I don’t think so.

McCain never gave his policies a chance to shine. He never gave his stance on the issues an opportunity to appeal to voters. He went Hillary on Obama way too early and the stubborn refusal of his campaign to see the error in this tactic is their death knell. Regardless of my disagreement with their policy proposals, they don’t deserve to win it. They tried generalities about his experience and his “maverick” record, but they forgot the specifics about what they are promising the American people. Basic chants about “cleaning up Washington” and “rooting out ineffeciencies” (though Palin forgot the “in” in “inefficiency” a bit too many times in interviews) and “Obama’s the most liberal Senator” don’t work. People want to know what you are GOING TO DO. Future tense, McFly.

From a politically scientific level, it’s been suicide again and again. From a leftie level, it’s been glorious.

Every time another speech by Palin or McCain is carried live on television and they are talking Ayers and calling Obama a liar, I giggle – then press the mute button. Each day they waste with these failed distractions is just another nail in the coffin of their campaign.

So, go negative, McCain! Go negative all the way! Because that road leads to second place. And when you’re looking for bozos to blame, don’t just hurl your spittle towards all the former Bushies you hired, remember that you sold your soul and with it any chance you had to win. I’m looking forward to see you do well, but not good enough, in tonight’s debate. We’ll finally get to see that Town Hall you’ve been clamoring for. Enjoy it. Maybe Bush will meet you afterward by your jet with a cake.

22
Sep
08

Arguing With Republicans. Is It Worth It?

Or does it just make you want to sign up for a lobotomy? I thought so.

I’ve decided to explore this topic after my sister and her two boys spent last week up here in Fort Worth following the loss of power to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. My sister is not as outspoken as I and lives on a street full of hardcore, lifelong Republicans as is common in Houston. Sucks to be her. Furthermore, she and I are headed for a family visit next week during which we will masochistically immerse ourselves in a cesspool of diehard, Fox News-watching (and believing) Republicans who fly the Confederate flag on Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

Just today I was asked if I’d heard the rumor that Biden was going to bow out of the race just before the VP debate for “health” reasons and Hillary was going to step in as Obama’s new running mate. I can only presume that garbage was aired on Fox because these people do not obtain information from any other source. Perhaps Rush Limbaugh permeated their commons sense barrier as well, but I cannot know for sure. In any case, pro-Republican media sources are just one long circle-jerk, so it doesn’t really matter where they get their information (see comments below). It all goes back to Satan in the long run.

Intellectual debate is one of the highlights of my life. I loved living in Austin for just that reason. No matter which bar you entered, the scene was ripe for spicy discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the leading causes of war or the pros and cons of limited government. Agreeing and disagreeing had nothing to do with the shared enjoyment of testing and rehashing arguments as round after round was purchased into the wee hours. I rarely saw my sparring partners again, but those conversations stay with me.

In Fort Worth, of course, the vast majority of people here are Conservative Republicans who pride themselves on their bumper stickers indicating which pricey christian private school they send their children. I’m in a FreeThinkers group and love the conversation there – though we tend to agree with each other most of the time. But living in Fort Worth does at times make me yearn for the ubiquitous open-mindedness of Austin’s citizens and bar patrons.

Living in a town like this or on my sister’s street in Houston constantly begs the question of appropriateness  of political debate. I’m outspoken and have little need for the approval of others, but also don’t have very tight relationships with my neighbors. When my sister’s neighbor across the street exclaimed, “Democrats suck!”, it was clear that arguing with the person would be unproductive and even less enjoyable. So why even threaten a relationship with a good neighbor, however politically bassackward they may be? It’s a question that will last through the ages.

In a previous blog, I discussed that our unwillingness to insert politics in “polite” conversation inhibits progress and stymies debate which is essential to a healthy democracy. We look to intellectual debate to be worthwhile, fulfill us, get our blood pumping, have fun, learn new things and test our acquired knowledge – not to wear us down, leave us worn and ragged and hopeless.

So, when is arguing with Republicans worth it? Here’s my hypothesis:

Arguing with Republicans is always worth it if they’re informed. Most of the Republicans I know are fairly well-informed, though most of them are also not regular church goers. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, I just thought I’d put that out there. And while arguing with uninformed Republicans is akin to taking candy from a baby, it’s about as productive and fun as preparing for a triathlon by playing golf. I leave those discussions thinking, “What a dumbass!” rather than, “Oooh, that’s something to think about” or “That was fun” or “I shouldn’t drink so much if I’m going to have to recall shit from my AP History class.”

Arguing with Republicans is worth it if they use curse words in their every day vernacular rather than just when they’re angry. People who do not ever use curse words generally have some form of a stick up their ass. These people are not fun to be around in any event, let alone in a political arena. Even my own mother says “Shit!” every now and then. Those who can roll with the punches, play loosey-goosey and see the value in sarcasm are always worthy of a place in the forbidden world of political debate.

The previous rule applies to Republicans who drink alcohol and especially if they smoke weed. If they are a teetotaler, chances are they are wound pretty friggin tight and could erupt like Mount Vesuvius at any moment. Any real debate with these people should be left to the TV screen, no doubt peppered by the teetotaler’s spittle after images of nudity or Obama surging in the polls are projected.

Fiscal Repubilicans are always worth arguing with much more than Conservative Republicans. In theory, many of the fiscal Republican tenets make sense; they simply do not work in reality. Trickle-down wealth, lack of regulation, free market, etc. They sound good. They just don’t work. The problem with Conservative Republicans, however, is that they are one issue voters. Abortion in particular. For example, last week Ben Stein was on Larry King sternly criticizing the manner with which Republicans have handled this economy and are handling this specific economic crisis. After Robert Reich suggested he support Obama for just those reasons, Stein said, “No, it would not solve my problem with right to life, I’m afraid.”

One issue voters, mainly evangelicals, are the worst. They are uninformed and do what they’re told regardless of the consequences. There is no depth to their thought process and their leaders are unethical and unaccountable. I will not shy from an argument with these yahoos, but I also do not expect any positive result from these conversations. Most of the time, I have to present the flaws in christianity first because it is christianity that serves as the foundation for these people’s close-mindedness.

In general, if the Republican is cool and doesn’t take a quality discussion on the issues personally – you have the green light. If you’re like me and have no problem discussing politics with any schmo – even the racist ones – have at it! Enjoy it and remember that the discussion is what is important, not dominating, not winning or convincing. Simply having the discussion is productive. Especially if it’s over a good beer. I would avoid getting loud and redfaced – which can be hard after a few libations – but some of my best friends are knowledgable, fun Republicans and I wouldn’t have them any other way.

11
Sep
08

The Use of Incendiary Language

There is a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about the language we use and opinions we make regarding its benefits in attracting Independent and Undecided voters to our respective sides. I’d like to address this concern.

As a blogger who takes herself only slightly seriously, I have to address my growing use of incendiary language. Let me preface this by saying that my familial roots are in Southern Louisiana. We know how to have a good time and tell it like its (ahem, I mean “it is.”). I’m not especially diplomatic, meaning I don’t beat around the bush when I have something to say. This doesn’t mean I’m an ogre – I’m totally fun – but I don’t feel that need for the approval of others that inhibits we Americans in our thoughts and speech.

Basically, we fear offending people. This “Can’t we just get along?” and “Uniter” feelgood kumbayah stuff has infiltrated our culture almost to the point of paralyzing progress on a social and political scale – and this is having an effect on our democracy and our economy.

Democrats suffer from this condition in spades. Lefties tend to use temperate and inclusive language that is interpreted as mealy-mouthed and weak. Just turn on your television and watch Obama “fight” back against the attacks by McCain and Palin – many of which are ridiculous, false, even perverse and EASILY disputed. Yet Obama plods along on policy, which is great unless you’re trying to win a presidential election. Democrats across the country are shuddering with memories of Gore and Kerry as Obama “uhs” and “ahs” through the campaign trail.

Republicans on the other hand have introduced Sarah Palin, a completely lacking candidate picked with very little deliberation and consideration. This woman should be nowhere near the 3 a.m. phone call or the red button, but she’s got spunk and charisma and the voters are flocking to her like moths to that light that electrocutes and kills them.

Consider Rush Limbaugh – on the air 20 years, Ann Coulter – a regular on the bestseller lists, Bill O’Reilly – tricks people into forgetting about his own lack of credibility (he was the Inside Edition host) and enjoys healthy ratings. For the most part, these people are off their rocker. They could not be farther from their rocker. If their rocker was the pope, they are the chap-wearing transvestites at Brazil’s Carnival. Yet, seemingly against all logic and reason, these incendiary Right Wing commentators have a vast sea of fans and believers. Because of the language the use and the manner with which they use it.

Furthermore, too many times, we allow political correctness to guide are efforts to produce progress, causing us to fail. The Suffragettes didn’t care if they angered people with their opinion. Or, if they did care, they angered those sonsabitches anyway! The Civil Rights movement gained strength by being confrontational, shaking people out of their comfort zones. In today’s day and age, we give religion privilege to the detriment of our freedoms and the health of our democracy. It is time those of us who do not heed incredible tales of walking on water and the existence of Hell to voice our opinion and stand together against the domination of organized religion. To do that, we must make people uncomfortable with our honesty and refusal to keep politics and religion “out of the conversation.” We’re coming to a crossroads with people wanting to change our democracy into a theocracy – and I will not hold my tongue.

Now, I don’t think we should use incendiary language for the sake of gaining support. Much more reasonably-written blogs receive much more attention than this one. But four-letter words and calling a spade a spade come naturally to me. The lies hurled incessantly by Republicans need to be fought with strong words – especially by those of us who don’t have to fear losing their jobs for saying what they think (CareerBuilder just released a survey saying one in five bosses screen potential applicants through web searches about them).

If someone is being a jackass, I’m going to call them a jackass – but my words will not be empty. I will always have an informed opinion and be able to back up what I say. I invite intelligent debates, but will defend my views.

I’ve always appreciated the American culture of fake niceness so derided by Europeans. And in a restaurant or in a bookstore – you’ll get a different genuine friendliness we who live in Texas are famous for. But when it comes to public policy, the Cajun is coming out. We’ve allowed the Right Wing to dominate public opinion with lies and Christian Bullshit. I have bullshit repellent and I’m going to use it. And until the more moderate and liberal members of society stand up, take a stand, and have the courage to use words and tones that might be “uncomfortable” for them, we’re going to continue to cede the leadership and our rights to the Right Wing. And that ain’t no lie.

Take off the filter, bring on the honesty and start letting those four-letter words flow like your freedom of speech depends on it! Cause it does.

18
Jul
08

It’s Happening! My Starbucks is Closing!

Actually, 3 of my Starbucks are closing. I never thought this would happen to me – ME!! Sure, 600 Starbucks stores are closing, but I felt a certain satisfaction knowing their world domination would be checked.

Don’t get me wrong, of many of the strong corporate cultures out there, I have felt Starbucks led in the ethics department. Subsidizing college tuition, health benefits, not supporting the war in Iraq (please do not confuse this with not supporting the troops; this idea was suffered by many of the peeps I met while suffering the unfortunate fate of living in Oklahama for a year and half).

While visiting London in 2000, however, I first understood the expansion intentions of Slutbucks (I LOVE this new nickname some religious yahoo gave the coffee shop because of their naked mermaid symbol. Apparently, the Christian genius thought her tail was actually her legs splayed. He’s now a poster-boy for the need for college education, if you get my drift). I had not seen a Starbucks in an international setting during my junior year abroad (Strasbourg, represent!) and I spotted the coffee behemoth on a street corner directly across from a lovely mom and pop cafĂ© that had begun closing procedures. Sniff.

My body doesn’t like a lot of coffee. I haven’t figured out if it’s the acid levels or what, but I’ve always been able to drink Starbucks (especially their Breakfast Blend freshly ground) without too much trouble. So, I’ve developed quite an entrenched loyalty to Starbucks.

When I read that 600 Starbucks were closing, truthfully, I thought nothing of it. Really, we hardly ever actually go to Starbucks. It’s the psychological comfort of knowing my warm, caffeine injection was right around the corner awaiting a dog-on-the-leash, husband-at-my-side stroll.

No longer.

The only thing that could repair the damage to my American-consumer-convenience state of mind is if a walk-up tamale/taco/queso place opens in the stead of Starbucks. There’s already a dive-bar, liquor store, old-school burger joint, donut/jalapeno-pig-in-a-blanket shop, and Walgreens within walking distance of my home. If I can’t have my coffee, give me my tamales. Baby jesus, can you hear me? I swear I won’t play BINGO for a whole month if you let me have my tamales. And when I have children, I won’t give them sleeping pills and just spend the whole day at the BINGO parlor. Probably. Maybe.

Have a great weekend, everybody! And if you can get Sessions beer in your neck of the woods, buy it. Cause it’s some gorgeous stuff served from a stubby, brewed by Full Sail out of Hood River, Oregon.

You can click on this link on The Huffpo if you want to see if a Starbucks near you is closing.

09
Jul
08

Review: Maxed Out

Are documentaries getting better or is it just me? At least, they’re getting more interesting. Last night, I watched Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lending (2006) and must offer my highest recommendations to those considering adding to their rental “queue.”

maxed out

While this documentary is certainly a biased vehicle through which writer, director, producer James Duncan Scurlock expresses his opinions on the unethical credit industry and the government’s collusion, it nevertheless provides an eye-opening paradigm behind the every-man’s everyday experience with credit card companies. If you think you have it bad, watch this documentary – for real – and you’ll feel like you’re living large and in charge. And happiness is all in the mind, which is why the Danish are on top of the world.

It’s easy to take away from Maxed Out the the significance of the lack of regulation of the unethical credit industry by the government. It’s so cute when the Republicans and Libertarians parade their free market ideals and forget that the human element prevents these theories from successfully materializing, despite all the good intentions and numerical data. And they want to open the health care industry in the same manner – unregulated, free market doctors, medicine, scalpels. Yeah, that will work out real well! Lack of regulation has proven so effective in the housing industry, which has resulted in mass foreclosures and helped initiate a recession, and global trade, which provides us Americans cheap consumer goods by taking advantage of poor working conditions outside of our borders. Don’t ask don’t tell and the like.

What we need is a combination of economics and anthropology. The human element – which differs from culture to culture – inhibits capitalism, socialism or communism in their pure forms. China has had to mix capitalism with their brand of communism. The U.S. will never fully achieve a free market system that does not victimize the lowest common denominator. Until economists and legislators alike realize this fundamental reality and Americans stop falling for the right-wing line that all their taxes and all the government regulation only benefit the undeserving over the hard worker, we’re going to have these economic meltdowns – most especially when a Republican Congress rubberstamps a Republican White House.

But I digress as I often do.

Maxed Out hit home for me especially as I am a poster-child for financial misunderstanding and irresponsibility. To put it mildly, I bit off more than I could chew when I was in college and partied like a rock star in my early twenties. And while it can take a week to ruin your credit, it can take a lifetime to repair it. The cards are stacked against you and the system is designed to squeeze every penny from your cold, dead hands. It’s grotesque.

As a wise, old 30-something (does 30 count as 30-something?), I have seen the light and rectified my ways. What I have taken from my experience, however, is the belief in the necessity of financial training for children – especially teens. We have typing class, calculus, electives, foreign languages and yet the very basics of money-management is exempt from regular school curricula. I’m very happy to have learned about STD’s and what PCP does to the human and mice brains. But the development of my adulthood would have been greatly improved had the Texas School Board of Education seen fit at some point to include information on CHECKING ACCOUNTS, OVERDRAFT FEES, FICO SCORES, etc., etc., etc…

Few other skills in life rank above that of money management and merely having a weekly allowance doesn’t cut it. I have no idea why there are not parents at every PTO meeting calling for the inclusion of such education. We are left to our own devices and my devices were fairly shitty. I’m improving bit by bit (my stepdad gives me a subscription to Money Magazine), but you know it’s a long, hard slog and watching college loan payments the size of luxury car payments head into the wind every month still stings.

Quality of life is determined by the quality of our decisions and the quality of our decisions is largely dependent on the quality of our training and education. I knew nothing of finance when I entered my twenties, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let avoidable circumstances dictate the outcome of my financial existence.

So, be smart, get learned and watch Maxed Out. Cause that shit is crazy.

02
Jul
08

Anti-Intellectualism Half a Century Ago

History repeats itself – an oft-repeated proverb warning us that the the lessons of the past are once again the sins of today. Certainly, I found myself mentally saying a church-worthy Amen! to this proverb as I began reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, published in 1962, 1963.

anti-intellectualism in american life

Let me just say that if this weren’t a library book, I’d be highlighting the hell out of it. Instead, I’m reduced to tearing post-it after post-it to mark all the points of interest. And I haven’t started Chapter 2. My consumption of this work is a result of research I’m conducting for my own respective book, butrichard hofstadter phots Hofstadter’s observations have already shocked me into open-mouth disbelief as his descriptions of the anti-intellectualism of the 1950’s readily apply to today’s culture clash between the learned and the petrified. The author does assert that anti-intellectualism suffers cyclical fluctuations and will never fully abate to the netherworlds of silly history, with other theories such as “the sun revolves around the Earth” and “the 2008 election will be between Giuliani and Hillary” (yeah, that was my own Nostradamus endeavors into electoral predictions).

So, please forgive the length of this blog as I indulge myself by providing a few (a bunch?) unusually relevant excerpts from Chapter 1, with my intensely insightful commentary to follow.

…the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets precipitated one of those periodic surges of self-conscious national reappraisal to which the American public is prone. The Sputnik was more than a shock to American national vanity: it brought an immense amount of attention to bear on the consequences of anti-intellectualism in the school sysytem and in American life at large. Suddenly, the national distaste for intellect appeared to be not just a disgrace but a hazard to survival. Pg 4-5.

Perhaps I’m overreaching in my cocoon of progressive political theory, but I view global warming and the rise in fuel prices as the space race of our day. Before you emit a Moe-esqe, “Whaaaa?”, allow me to explain. While there are untold quantities of hydrocarbon beneath the surface of the Earth in not only the U.S., but also Iran, Russia, the South China Sea and other areas, global energy demands – especially of India and China – are helping fuel the rise petrol prices and will continue to do so.

The U.S. must focus on a transcendent energy policy today in the same manner we did with the space race in the ’60’s. Scientific ambitions aiming at a forward-thinking fuel-efficiency and alternative-energy development will help the U.S. maintain a technological and, thus, economic advantage in global markets. If we can me be a maverick in this area, we just might hold on to our hegemony a bit longer – though that need not be the main goal. We need to ride the wave of motivation high gas prices are providing toward cleaner energy and end our reign as Pollution Bastards of the World (especially as China will pick up the slack and more).

The labels of Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectuals were thrown around in the 1950’s in much the same way Liberal and Conservative are today. They were used as bad words by those who hurled them against their opponents and worn as badges of honor by those they described. Obviously, Hofstadter was an intellectual and the examples of anti-intellectual rhetoric he presents are laughable in this day and age – hopefully in the same manner Creationism and Intelligent Design will be laughable in another half century. If you haven’t chuckled today, allow me to send some historical fodder from Anti-Intellectualim your way that will surely entertain:

Novelist “of the right-wing persuasion,” Louis Broomfield, pg 9:

Egghead (euphemism for intellectual): A person of spurious intellectual pretensions…Fundamentally superficial. Over emotional and feminine in reactions to any problem. Supercilious and surfeited with conceit and contempt for the experience of more sound and able men. Essentially confused in thought and immersed in mixture of sentimentality and violent evangelism…

President Eisenhower’s definition of an intellectual, pg. 10:

…a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows.

The disdain for intellectualism opened education and the education system itself up for the attacks from the more conservative commentators of the day as well.

Billy Graham, pg 15:

billy grahamYou can stick a public school and a university in the middle of every block of every city in America and you will never keep America from rotting morally by mere intellectual education.

[In place of the Bible] we substituted reason, rationalism, mind culture, science worship, the working power of government, Freudianism, humanism, behaviorism, positivism, materialism, and idealism. [This work of ] so-called intellectuals. Thousands of these ‘intellectuals’ have publicly stated that morality is relative–that there is no norm or absolute standard…

Arthur Bestor, junior-high school principal in Illinois, pg. 17:

When we come to the realization that not every child has to read, figure, write and spell . . . that many of them either cannot or will not master these chores . . . then we shall be on the road to improving the junior high curriculum.

(This is the best part) Between this day and that a lot of selling must take place. But it’s coming. We shall some day accept the thought that it is just as illogical to assume that every boy must be able to read as it is that each one must be able to perform on a violin, that it is no more reasonable to require that each girl shall spell well than it is that each one shall bake a good cherry pie.

I’ve never made a cherry pie, but I can make a mean cherry cobbler. Does that count?

Jack Schwartzman, of the Freeman, pg. 13:

Our universities are the training grounds for the barbarians of the future, those who, in the guise of learning , shall come forth loaded with pitchforks of ignorance and cynicism, and stab and destroy the remnants of human civilization…

If you send your son to the college of today, you will create the Executioner of tomorrow. The rebirth of idealism must come from the scattered monasteries of non-collegiate thought.

Does it get any better than that?! This quotation thoroughly tickles my funny bone because I have a close family member, who recently turned 70, who continually blames my political viewpoints on the fact that I attended “one of those liberal universities.” I had no idea the University of Texas was a cesspool of left-wing larva ready infiltrate governmental policy-making (don’t tell the frat boys!). In fact, he repeats that these “liberal colleges” are why young people tack liberal and why this world is going to hell in a handbag. I continually try to remind him that I retained nothing from college classes. Especially French.

And perhaps to close, this final quotation from Hofstadter himself that proves yet another proverb: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pg 12 – and keep in mind, he wrote this in 1962:

Far more acute and sweeping was the hostility to intellectuals expressed on the far-right wing, a categorical folkish dislike of the educated classes and of anything respectable, established, pedigreed, or cultivated. The right-wing crusade of the 1950’s was full of heated rhetoric about ‘Harvard professors, twisted-thinking intellectuals . . . in the State Department.’

Am I the only one who feels like they’re in the Twilight Zone? George Bush thinks the jury is still out on global warming AND evolution. Hillary Clinton somehow warped into the working man’s candidate (talk about shape-shifting) and decried “experts” who opposed her gas tax holiday. Schools across the country are peppered with teachers who want to assert Intelligent Design as a scientific principle when it’s the absolute antithesis to the definition of science itself.

When will these perverted objectors realize that science, math, literature – EDUCATION – is what provided them their military weaponry, their computers, their energy capabilities, every day conveniences, “free market” dreams, and overall U.S. success and domination. It is a shame that people have to suffer when factories close and the jobs that require less education go overseas. As it is natural for species to go extinct in biological evolution and so is the case with jobs during economic evolution. Would the laid-off factor worker rather keep his job, yet amputate the very tools with which the U.S. retains its global position and military domination? Well, that would be unpatriotic.

Anti-Intellectualism is an embarrassment that has enjoyed many a decade hindering the development of humanity. For some inexplicable reason, Americans tend to wallow in more than their fair share. I suppose fear of change and development is at the heart of the matter, though it is hard for me to reconcile the “Great American Dream” with this entrenched detestation of progress and reason.

I do, however, think we’ve come a long way since Hofstadter penned his academic opinions. College education is ever more the norm and I’m sure 50 years from now we’ll laugh at the crazy old people who didn’t want the gays to marry and thought someone having a college education was a clear indication of anbush bumpersticker like a rock only dumber elitist in their midst. And I appreciated a sentiment by James Carville (who has stoked some of my ire during the current primary season) who said on AC 360 the other evening, “Competence is patriotic.” Well, halle-freaking-lujah.

I can tell I’m really going to enjoy the rest of this book. In the meantime, let’s get-to on those alternative energy sources!!

24
Jan
08

Intelligent Political Debate (with sarcasm)

As a political junkie who used to perform international geopolitical analysis on a daily basis, it is difficult for me to watch the 2008 campaigns in this most significant election year and simply comment to the “lucky” few around me. I have an appreciation for the political opinion websites because the Internet invaluably allows we are interested parties to exercise our voice – a gift that should never be taken for granted.

Raised mostly in Texas, my political origins were embedded in Republican ideals, as you can imagine. (I have the kind of family that refers to the Civil War as the War of States’ Rights. You can see what I’m talking about) My increasing discovery of the world around me and motivation to recognize the necessity of operating as a community and not merely an individual has refocused my paradigm. While I will never claim certainty or righteousness and will operate with an open mind, I speak my opinion as one who is informed and in constant search for more information. Proper decision-making requires education. And votes and opinions are proving more valuable all the time.

The old guard is slowly retiring their post of self-interest and fear of the unknown. This is an opportune moment for us to stand and challenge one another in an effort to strengthen our political participation and knowledge of those who seek to govern us. In our effort to hone our political consciences, we must never insult one another or think we have a monopoly on “right”. When you cease to learn and listen, your mind becomes petrified and you are no longer useful. Condescension proves nothing other than you can no longer defend your ideas legitimately.

I search for reason and ration and logic in all the decisions I make and all the opinions I form. I seek it in the opinions and views of others. Here, in the southern edge of the Bible Belt in which I live, logic can be a tricky bugger to find. But it’s getting easier. Mostly in the comments of political pieces I read. So, I know those of like mind are out there and that’s comforting. Instead of populating the comment regions of political and news websites, I decided I wanted my own comment page – for catharsis if nothing else. It’s time to stop shouting at the television, if you know what I mean.

Please feel free to leave comments or start a discussion. I live for this stuff. Just don’t be an asshole. There are enough of those in the game already.




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