Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


"When you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the bible and swore to uphold the constitution. You didn't place your hand on the constitution and swear to uphold the bible."

Jamie Raskin (D), Maryland State Senate


Monday, February 27, 2012

Dishonest and Wrong

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum called the president a "snob" in connection with promoting higher education. In response, a leading fact-checking organization calls Rick Santorum a liar. I guess the ultra-religious Santorum forgot about the Ninth Commandment.
Santorum also said that kids get "indoctrinated" in college and lose their "faith." The actual facts tell a very different story.
Santorum: dishonest and wrong ... two qualities that make him the natural Republican frontrunner for president.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Entitlement Society Reality

I recently had a discussion with a conservative friend from South Carolina. He accused me of being from the "moocher" state of "Taxachusetts," a prime example of the "liberal entitlement society," which was, of course, ruining the country for the people in "honest, hard-working" states like his. 

Take a look at the map below from Talking Points Memo. (Click it to enlarge.) 

For every dollar the residents of my state pays in federal taxes, we get back only 83 cents in federal services. For every dollar my conservative friend and his neighbors in South Carolina pay, they get back $2.13.

So who's the "entitlement-society moocher" in this equation?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's Wrong with this Picture?

You don't have to look closely to see that none of the people testifying at this congressional hearing on birth control can get pregnant. Why did this happen? Because the Republican committee chair (Darrell Issa, R-CA) specifically refused to allow any women to testify ... at a hearing about birth control! No offense to my Republican friends, but is this what you voted for?

The Repubican War on Women Now Includes Sexual Assault ... Literally!

Virginian Republicans just passed a bill that would require women seeking a legal abortion to get a medically unnecessary and invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound against their consent. Where I come from, there's a word for violating a woman against her will ... rape. It's an ugly word for an ugly act. It's one thing to be against abortion, but abortion is legal. Rape isn't. Does it make sense to anyone that Virginia Republicans want to violate women?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Which is Worse: Distasteful Satire or Massive Dishonesty?


A progressive Christian friend of mine recently posted this picture on Facebook. The picture depicts Christ on the cross with the Fox News headline: "Socialist Hippie Executed." She said that it had been sent to her by another progressive Christian (a minister, in fact). My friend said she thought long and hard about whether or not she should post it and, if she did, what to say about it. In the end, she simply said that she couldn't decide on a comment but wanted to post it anyway.

A mutual friend who is a conservative Christian made the first comment: "I wish you had thought about this more before posting such a terrible and asinine picture."

But I realized that the true thoughtless and asinine views were expressed by the conservative friend who condemned the picture because he completely missed the point.

I did some research and found that the picture comes from a Facebook community called "If Fox News was Around." The group creates satirical pictures like this one showing moments in history as they might have been covered by the slanted and dishonest perspective of Fox News. I certainly don't find this particular picture very tasteful (and it is the most extreme one posted on their site), but satire is, by its nature, often not very tasteful. And I imagine anyone who actually thinks that the right-wing propaganda outfit known as Fox News accurately reports on current events would find this picture particularly objectionable.

Tastefulness aside, this picture definitely raises some insightful points. For example, the life and teachings of Jesus are not compatible with the not-very-Christian extreme right-wing views that are now very popular among Fox News viewers and the Republican Party. In relation to Jesus himself, depicted in the picture, Christ's teachings didn't praise unregulated capitalism or support the death penalty (which was imposed on Jesus himself), two key planks of the Republican Party promoted on Fox News. And Fox News is very fond of falsely portraying Democrats as socialists for caring about how our government treats the poor and the oppressed--a central component of Christ's teachings. Overall, Fox News also doesn't seem to have much respect for the Ninth Commandment as the network bears false witness against political opponents at an alarming rate.

So, while I find this picture distasteful, I can see beyond my distaste and recognize that it makes a very good point. My progressive Christian friend clearly put a great deal of thought into what to make of this picture before posting it, and I support her right to free speech in posting it for us to consider and form our own opinions. I also respect my conservative Christian's right to free speech, but I wish he put more thought into his unfounded accusations of thoughtlessness. Moreover, I wish the people on Fox News, most of whom make claims to being Christians, would put some real thought into the things that they say on the dishonest pretense of presenting "news." I watch Fox News regularly (distressing and mind-numbing though it can be) and closely follow the websites that fact-check Fox News's rampant dishonesty. The bottom line is that Fox News itself is far more asinine and a far worse affront to Christianity than anyone posting this satirical photo.

Thanks to my progressive Christian friend for posting the photo. I still find this picture distasteful, but I appreciate the point behind the satire, and I certainly appreciate that my friend gave us the opportunity to think about these important issues. When we stop thinking and simply accept the kind of propaganda that Fox News distributes, we lose the reality-based critical thinking that defines America at its best.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

This is a very Good Beginning ...

The foreclosure fraud settlement is a big victory for the American people and a great first step toward accountability for the big banks that helped crash the economy. $25 billion goes directly from those abusive banks to help people victimized by foreclosure fraud. This is just a start because President Obama's task force will still pursue the bank's criminal activity in mortgage, securities, tax, and insurance fraud, among other crimes. Thanks to the president, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, task force leader New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and the attorneys general of 49 out of the 50 states who approved this first-step settlement.

The Rachel Maddow Show has an excellent analysis.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Common Sense

Question: What's the opposite of "planned parenthood"?
Answer: Unplanned pregnancy.

I support a woman's right to make her own reproductive and sexual choices without intrusion from politicians who have their own agenda. And I support the president's decision to require prescription contraception to be covered by insurance companies in accordance with existing federal law stating that discrimination against women's medial needs is a crime. I also understand that covering contraception prevents the costs associated with unplanned pregnancies, so the president's plan actually saves money in the long run. 

One more thing ... contraception reduces the number of abortions and saves lives. That sounds like an actual common-sense, pro-life position.

I do not support the Republican Party's attacks on women's rights. And I especially do not support the Republican Party's hypocritical misuse of religion to try to score political points on this issue.

I support Planned Parenthood.



Marriage equality marches on!

Washington state takes one more progressive step to end government discrimination against the right of American citizens to participate in love, family, and commitment.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Truely Despicable Republican Ad

Michigan Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra's ad has offensive race baiting, name-calling, fearmongering, misrepresentation of the facts, and a Fox News whitewashing. For the good of America, I hope people can see through this kind of garbage in Michigan and across the country and defeat Republicans like this in the next election.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ron Paul is Far from a Liberal Alternative

The supposed liberal dissatisfaction with President Obama has been greatly exaggerated in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, that exaggeration has led to speculation that Republican Ron Paul could be an alternative candidate for liberals who might be disappointed in the president. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul has inspired people to get involved in the political process, which is good. He opposed the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, and he favors marijuana legalization. Those are appealing positions to liberals, no doubt. And he projects a certain "grumpy-grandpa" image that liberals admire in fighters like Senator Bernie Sanders. But when you look deeper, most of Paul's views are antithetical to the liberal perspective and simply terrible for America.

Paul's actual anti-war views aren't really liberal because he supports military action based on his narrow view of American economic interests. Many liberals support the moral use of military force to protect innocent people. Paul's is against the United States assisting citizens of other countries defend themselves against cruel dictators. For example, Paul opposed the recent successful intervention in Libya, skillfully and reasonably orchestrated by President Obama, which saved countless lives.

Paul is certainly no liberal on social issues. He wants to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, progressive programs that have protected millions of people from poverty and suffering. His solution to rising health care costs is for the uninsured to rely on the charity of doctors and churches. He wants to abolish the federal departments of education, environmental protection, and energy (among others), agencies that help keep Americans productive and safe. Just like all the other science-denying Republicans running for president, Paul calls climate change a hoax. He even wants to abolish FEMA because he says that it's immoral for the government to help victims of natural disasters.

In addition to legalizing marijuana, Paul supports legalizing truly dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. His advice to victims of sexual harassment is that they should quit their jobs. Even though he claims to be against government intrusion, he believes the government should control reproductive rights and tell us whom we can and can't marry. He's also against any form of gun control. Do any of those positions sound remotely liberal?

Paul is militantly anti-immigrant and has ties to white supremacist organizations (not to mention that nagging history of racist, homophobic, and anti-semitic comments in his newsletters and other sources). He opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and voted repeatedly against the Martin Luther King holiday. While he may not be personally be bigoted, his public policy views is clearly far to the right of mainstream American percpective on race. He calls himself a Christian, but he's a longtime devotee of the completely anti-Christian Ayn Rand philosophy that selfishness is a virtue.

On economic issues, Paul is even farther right that the already extreme Republican Party. He's against all forms of government consumer protection and financial regulation--even after unregulated Wall Street abuses crashed the economy. He claims that taxes are a form of immoral theft, but he doesn't explain how government could fund essential services without taxation--except through vague "fees" that would radically shift the burden from the wealthy onto the backs of the middle-class and the poor. He often rants against "the FED" and American monetary policy, but experts on the subject consider him a confused conspiracy theorist.

If America ever adopted Paul's extremist agenda, our nation would become a cut-throat, self-centered, trample-the-weak type of place that would favor the already super-rich and plunge everyone else into poverty and danger. That's not a liberal utopia by any means.

Yet the inexplicable rumblings persist that Paul is a liberal alternative. Of course, President Obama hasn't been perfect. He hasn't done everything liberals want to correct the Bush administration failures. No president could. But Obama has overseen steady progress in the face of relentless right-wing obstruction. The reasonable liberal alternative to the president's difficult first term is re-election with a renewed Democratic Congress to accelerate the progress already begun. Paul, on the other hand, would be a regressive disaster that liberals would deeply regret.


This column appeared in my local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette.