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Tag: United States

Sit the Duck Down: Why You Should NOT “Stand With Phil”

As tired as we are of hearing about it, we’d like to say a few words about Phil Robertson’s recent comments. Right now, it’s almost impossible to log onto social media without seeing pictures like this:
I Stand With Phil photo i-stand-with-phil_zps4d91cdb1.jpg
First of all, Phil Robertson made comments about both gay people and Black people. The GQ article quotes Robertson as saying, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? … no one was singing the blues.” Robertson indicates that Black people today believe themselves to be entitled, and he appears shocked that they could be happy without welfare. Let’s review a few things about Phil Robertson’s comments, free speech, and Christianity.

Regarding free speech, the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” Congress made no law prohibiting anything that Phil Robertson said, and he was not censored in the press. If he had been censored, nobody would know that he made these disturbing comments.

It is disturbing when someone compares same-sex attraction to raping animals, or seems surprised that Black people could be happy without welfare – but does he have a right to say it? Sort of. He has the right to speak his mind, but according to the American Bar Association (ABA), “fighting words”, including hate speech, are not protected. Making incorrect and potentially damaging comparisons between consensual, loving relationships and sticking one’s naughty bits into mammals of the four-legged variety IS hate speech.

This fact doesn’t change just because someone claims to be speaking or acting according to his or her religious beliefs. This applies to other instructions in the Bible, like stoning people to death. Yes, it says in the Bible to do this in certain circumstances – but in modern-day U.S., there are courts, juries, and trials that decide guilt and punishment, and anyone caught stoning people to death will be arrested. Why? Because the modern-day U.S. also has laws that forbid people from doing any of the morbid and inhumane things that may – or may NOT – have been deemed acceptable over 2,000 years ago.

Beside that, most of the passages cited in the Bible to criticize homosexuality have been misinterpreted. For a complete list explained in a concise and entertaining way, please enjoy this wonderful video from Bible-literate comedian John Fugelsang. As Fugelsang points out, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (KJV) are the verses of the Bible that are most often used to claim that homosexuality is an abomination.

Leviticus is the book of the Bible that outlines dietary law (like not eating pork or shellfish), and forbids mixing fabrics (like cotton and wool), getting tattoos, and divorces, among a total of 76 things. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us,” (Galatians 3:13) and “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). This released Christians from the requirements of keeping Kosher, not shaking hands with women because they may be unclean (menstruating), and yes, the so-called abomination of lying “with a man, as with a woman” (Lev. 18:22).

Like all Americans, Phil Robertson is entitled to believe whatever he wants to believe. Unfortunately for Mr. Robertson and his supporters, there is no way to defend him or his comments. Nobody prevented him from holding these beliefs, or from saying them in an interview published to the World Wide Web. His words are not supported by the religion he claims to follow. Most importantly, there is no law or Amendment that guarantees him employment by A&E (or anywhere else) if he publicly says something that insults their customers and damages their brand. As The Rude Pundit wrote on the topic, “You have a right to hate anything you want. No one has to tolerate your hate, no matter what you say to justify it.”

© 2013 Poligags
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America Was Not Shut Down Properly: Reboot!

US Not Shut Down Properly photo USnotshutdownproperly_zps27d9de92.jpg Image Credit: Pop Culture’s Conscience

This great little graphic got us to thinking… and although everyone is already weary of the subject, we wanted to explore it through our unique Poligags lens.

This shut down never had to happen. It was never supposed to happen. Remember the Fiscal Cliff Showdown that concluded just this last January? The threat of sequestration was supposed to be so hideously terrifying that our elected officials would never allow us to reach that point.

Except that they did.

Ordinarily, the country operates on a fiscal year with – get this! – a budget. A budget that is cobbled together with elements from the separate proposals offered by the President, the Senate and the House. This has not happened for some while, and as a result, we have seen governance by crisis, lurching toward precipices set at three- and six-month intervals.

There was an 18-month period during which congressional leaders were supposed to have found that magical mix of cost cutting and revenue enhancement that would deliver on an agreed-to target. They failed to achieve that goal, and the result was The Sequester.

Except for the parts that were too inconvenient. Those cuts disappeared.

The current fight that we’re witnessing is over a stop-gap. A resolution that would only carry us through until December 15…whereupon, presumably, we would endure the same fight all over again. Still no budget. Still no agreement on national priorities. Still no acknowledgement that the Constitution demands that all appropriations made by Congress are valid debts that must be paid.

America was not shut down properly. And, with default now looming on the horizon, it appears that we’re going to be partying like it’s 1929.

The Great Depression followed a number of economic imbalances that eventually led to the stock market crash and years of economic turmoil and hardship. There are some parallels between events of the 1920s and recent years:

1929

Now

Weak Banking Sector Fanny / Freddie, the mortgage “bubble” and the government shut down leading economists to predict “deep” recession
Weak Agriculture Sector followed by the Dustbowl Era of the 1930s Farm bill expired; no emergency response to the freak blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle due to government shut-down. GMOs, super-weeds, super-pests and pollinator-killing pesticides threaten a new “dustbowl”
Rapid growth in credit/loans increased people’s indebtedness; made “millionaires” on paper only Stimuli encouraged large purchases – e.g., subsidized mortgages – increasing indebtedness. Income inequality at an all-time high
Reduction in economic confidence resulted in borrowers with high exposure to try to redeem their debts Economic confidence stands at -34 with a high likelihood of worsening
Related to buying on credit was the practice of “buying on margin” and financing the remaining 80-90% Inappropriate stimuli include low interest loans
Mismatch between production and consumption. Sales of cars, the demand for steel and a slowdown in housing construction contributed to a decline in share values Manufacturing is not coming back. The foreclosure crisis continues. Many countries structured economies around exports, encouraging over-consumption by the US. Aggregate household consumption in 2009 was at an unsustainable 70% of GDP, according to the Journal of Accountancy

America was not shut down properly. In the 1930s, the New Deal provided for jobs and infrastructure programs. It created the FHA and other consumer loan agencies. The Social Security Administration was founded.

Many argue that the New Deal did not dig America out of the Great Depression. What it did do, though, was to lay a foundation for an unprecedented period of economic stability that lasted for some fifty years until supply-side trickle-down Reaganomics began chipping away at the reforms and policies that yielded sustainability.

So go ahead. Reboot America – in safe mode, of course.

Just as the United States came out of the Depression stronger and improved, we can (we’ll have to) do it again. We will reinstitute banking safeguards such as Glass-Steagall. We will get the corrupting “dark money” out of government and reverse Citizens United. We will create jobs that also rehabilitate our crumbling infrastructure. We will cap the CEO to worker pay ratio. We will ensure healthcare for all citizens. And we will vote out the perpetrators in 2014. Reboot.

© 2013 Poligags
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UPDATE: On October 16, the Senate passed a continuing resolution to reopen the government by an 81-18 margin. It then went to the House, where it also passed, 285-144. While good, keep in mind, we’ll be going through this again in January 2014…and that no fewer than 162 legislators chose to perpetuate the shutdown and risk the “full faith and credit” of the United States.

It’s Time to Rethink Nuclear

In 1957, a book entitled On The Beach was published. Set in futuristic 1963, it told an apocalyptic tale of a world contaminated by radioactivity. The sole remaining inhabitants of the planet were in Australia, waiting for the deadly cloud to claim them, too.

In March 1979, a movie was released that brought another horrible potentiality to the screen. In The China Syndrome, a fictional power plant’s defect leads to near-disaster. Fortunately, Jack Lemmon was there to single-handedly save Los Angeles from a complete meltdown and annihilation.

(The entire film is available from several online sources for those wishing to view it.)

Less than two weeks before the movie opened, Three Mile Island nuclear power plant came as close as the United States has known to an actual China Syndrome occurring: a sequence of events leading to a nuclear reactor’s core melting through its containment and into the Earth.

Fast forward to another March – only this time, a little more than two years ago. The Fukushima / Daichi nuclear power plant sustained the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the region, but then succumbed to a tsunami caused by the quake. Flooded by seawater and with main and back-up pumps knocked off line, technicians were unable to properly cool the fuel rods.

There have been sustained efforts to contain and decommission the plant, but it recently became generally known that leaks had contributed to 300-400 tons (depending on who you ask) of contaminated water being released into the ocean. These effects are wide-spread as shown in this NOAA image:
 photo Radiation_zps438afd0a.jpgNumerous news articles have appeared citing increases in thyroid issues in children born on the West Coast, of several mammalian species presenting sores and hair loss, and a critical reduction in the number of sockeye salmon. Unacceptably higher levels of radiation are routinely detected in Pacific-dwelling fish off the coast of Japan.

Worse, it may not be over yet, as Japanese officials announced a “fresh leak” that constitutes a Level 3 “serious incident”. They say they need help now to “lower the risk of these accidents…becoming fatal.”

Some scientists have suggested that Reactor 1 may have already had melted fuel burn through the containment vessel and into the ground. Reactors 2 and 3 are still being cooled by an unstable system that may prove unfit to to contend with demand. A steam explosion from either or both of those is possible. A China Syndrome scenario would set up a release radioactive steam should the core contact ground water.

So, to recap: for the sake of cheap electricity, people defied nature and built potentially uncontrollable behemoths. The failure of just one has made a city unlivable, contaminated an entire ocean and impacted untold numbers of species.

Give us wind and solar any day.

© 2013 Poligags
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An Interview with Abbie Hoffman

Yes. We know. Abbie Hoffman died in 1989.

But we actually met him. We talked to him – in person and on the phone. We even attended a party he threw in Pacific Palisades. And, although he called our work “scatological,” he invited us to submit a graphic for use in his then up-coming book Steal This Urine Test.

We miss the guy (except at meal times – he was a bit of a messy eater) and thought it would be fun to imagine what it would be like to talk to him now about recent events and the political climate. So we pulled together some of the better-known quotes attributed to him (in blue text), and this is what we came up with.

Enjoy.

Poligags: The 2012 election cycle was the most acrimonious in our memory. What’s your take?

Abbie: You’ve got to resist oppression as you feel it. Don’t vote in a jackass – elephant – cracker circus. Let’s vote for ourselves. Everyone becomes a life actor of the street doing his thing, making the revolution by freeing himself and fucking up the system.

Poligags: What did you think of the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, specifically?

Abbie: I used to sayavoid all needle drugs; the only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon.Add Romney to the list! I mean, if this guy is God, then this is the God that the United States of America deserves. Look at his big accomplishment, Bain Capital. People had no alternative than to make war on machines. And, in particular, the sterile machines of corporate death and the robots that guard them.

Poligags: Since the election, the Republicans have realized that their “messaging” was not well-received by certain demographics.

Abbie (big laugh): Never impose your language on people you wish to reach.

Poligags: And, leading up to the election, the Occupy movement was very active. You must’ve found it gratifying to see people so engaged.

Abbie: Yeah. What young people have that’s vitally needed to make social change is impatience. You want it to happen now. There have to be enough people that say, “We want it now, in our lifetime.” We want to see banksters in jail right now. We want to see marriage equality right now. We want to see the war in Afghanistan stop right now. We want the CIA off our campus right now. We want an end to sexual harassment in our communities right now. Be adventurists in the sense of being bold and daring. Be opportunists and seize this opportunity, this moment in history, to go out and save our country. It’s your turn now.

Poligags: Were you surprised by – or would you have expected – the level of push-back the protesters got from the authorities?

Abbie: You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists. When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out. Expedience, not justice, is the rule of contemporary American law. Same old story, different decade!

Poligags: Even since the election, there’s been a lot of dissatisfaction with the direction the country is taking. Do you have any advice?

Abbie: The key to organizing an alternative society is to organize people around what they can do, and more importantly, what they want to do. The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.

Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit. And you’ve got to be truly committed. Smoking dope and hanging up Che’s picture is no more a commitment than drinking milk and collecting postage stamps. 

The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it. Understand that legal and illegal are political, and often arbitrary, categorizations. Structure is more important than content in the transmission of information. A modern revolutionary…heads for the television station. Or Twitter…

Look: the ‘60s are gone, dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock ‘n’ roll never as great. But there is absolutely no greater high than challenging the power structure as a ‘nobody’, giving it your all and winning! Just remember that it’s embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Seller’s List. 

© 2013 Poligags
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RANDOM THOUGHTS OF MINDNESS

Greed is good for capitalism.  Taxing greed is good for democracy.

Republicans won’t be happy until the Supreme Court is as fair and balanced as Fox News.

How is it that the same people who say that Big Government can’t do anything right think that Big Business can’t do anything wrong?

Obama saved General Motors.  A real socialist would have saved Detroit.

Did God create evolution or did creationism just evolve?

Why does every driver behind me seem to be fleeing a nuclear bomb, yet every driver in front of me can’t seem to find the gas pedal?

Every time capitalism gets in trouble, socialism has to bail it out.

A balanced budget is easy.  Just enact a tax on the use of the words “socialist” and “socialism”.  Heck, throw in “job creators” and “entitlements” and before you know it, we’ll have a budget surplus.

We pay for lots of studies.  How about one on how to speed up karma?

I voted for Barack Obama, and hope and change.  Now, I just hope he gets something right for a change.

© 2013 Poligags
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It Really IS The Inequality

It really is the inequality.

Americans have been through the wringer for the last several years. We endured the fallout of the bursting economic bubble. We’ve witnessed congressional tantrums and showdowns over the debt ceiling, the budget, taxation, and the trillion-dollar coin. We’ve been subjected to sequestration and the threat of austerity measures.

While economist Paul Krugman said (New Republic) that “economics is not a morality play,” at every turn, it is the average citizen whose continued economic well-being has been at stake in these debates over the economy. Real wages continue to deteriorate. The jobs market remains flat and the middle class simply doesn’t have the purchasing power to spend the economy back to health. People are being asked to do more, accept less and accede to being bled dry.

What pols don’t seem to realize is that when people are unemployed, they draw from the system. They rely on unemployment insurance to make ends meet. Some turn to food stamp and welfare assistance. They utilize public health care resources. There have been reports recently of TANF recipients who have exhausted the funds for which they were eligible moving toward disability for continued income.

By contrast, people who work pay into the system. They pay into federal and state coffers. They travel to and from work, sometimes paying tolls and, in nearly all cases, gasoline taxes. They use their incomes to purchase homes, paying property taxes that fund schools and community services. They patronize stores, buying things while keeping others employed; they pay taxes on purchases, as well. Further, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, US employment accounted for 68% of world-wide employment; so we benefit ourselves and the global economy through our economic strength.

The powers-that-be only see the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) angle. For years, the so-called job creators have been sitting on over a trillion dollars in assets. Last summer, one article cited that figure at $5 trillion (The Atlantic). Instead of stimulating the economy through hiring (and the resulting spending noted above), they “save it for a rainy day”. And, whereas corporations used to contribute about one-third of the tax revenues that funded government functions, they now only contribute less than 10% (The Contributor). The corporate entity is also entitled to shelters the average person is not: corporations offshore their money so that it isn’t subject to taxation. Sixty corporations were found to have hidden $166 billion in assets in just this manner (Daily Kos).

It doesn’t end with corporate taxes. Congress has quashed pay equity bills twice in the last year (Think Progress). Based on a survey of 327 of the S&P 500 and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, CEOs are making 354 times what the average worker earns (Executive PayWatch). One family – the heirs of WalMart’s Sam Walton – have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the population (PolitiFact), while WalMart “associates” must accept public assistance despite full time employment (PolitiFact). This is because the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is too meager to be a living wage (living wage calculator). President Obama proposed a minimum wage increase to $9; several states have adopted this standard, but no headway has been made at the federal level. We argue that this rate is still insufficient, but it would be an improvement.

All of these things contribute to our current state of disparity between the haves and the have nots. The gulf between the two is widening and threatens whatever opportunities exist for economic recovery. So, while the House of Representatives meets only 126 days in 2013 (Washington Post) and engages in such productive activities as naming post offices and dedicating weeks to celebrating vegetables made inedible by multinationals with lobbyists, remember: it is the inequality. Right up until November 4, 2014.

© 2013 Poligags
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PROOF THAT SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE: THE GENIUS OF WILL ROGERS

You’ve heard the saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same. To kick off this blog, we offer some classic lines from the pundit of his day, Will Rogers:

  • The 1928 Republican Convention opened with a prayer. If the Lord can see His way clear to bless the Republican Party the way it’s been carrying on, then the rest of us ought to get it without even asking.
  • Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
  • You can’t say civilization don’t advance… in every war they kill you in a new way.
  • If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, “America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership.”
  • There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
  • Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.
  • I have a scheme for stopping war. It’s this – no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one.
  • There ought to be one day – just one – when there is open season on senators.  (Note: If Rogers were alive today, there is no doubt he would have added representatives.)
  • Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.
  • Our country has got so that each one of us has to live by a “racket” of some kind, and none of us must be too critical of the other fellow’s racket.

© 2013 Poligags
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