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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Voted Today ... Guess Who For

My classes were cancelled today, so I did some storm clean up and then took a break to go into town and vote absentee (one of the consequences of living in Massachusetts and teaching in Connecticut).

With each passing election, voting feels more important to me. I'm thrilled to live in a country where I can cast a ballot, and I'm very happy with my choices.


Update: Someone on Facebook called me a "two-time loser" when I posted this photo. Rude and wrong is a bad combination. 


50-50 Chance


Friday, October 19, 2012

Underpants Voters

Popular pastor Rick Warren recently said that American Christians should vote "for a Christian worldview which stands up for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, and the sanctity of marriage." No offense to Pastor Warren, but reducing Christianity and American civic engagement to the things that happen in our underpants is terrible Christianity and even worse citizenship.

Warren's reductive marching orders to American Christians hit three hot social issues from this year's presidential campaign: abortion, birth control, and marriage equality. I've been told that I'm belittling Christianity with the term "underpants voters," but isn't presenting these sex-based issues as if they are the only things that should be important about Christianity in America simply an insult that belittles American Christians?

Conservatives too often equate "the sanctity of life" with making sure that government imposes a narrow set of religious beliefs on a woman's pregnancy, regardless of her own thoughts, feelings, or needs. People in America (including Christians) honestly disagree about the exact point at which the mass of living cells inside a pregnant woman becomes a human being. But there is no disagreement that an actual child is a human being. Shouldn't the "sanctity of life" continue once a baby is born? Welfare, social-service programs, and public education are designed primarily to benefit children, to keep them fed, clothed, protected, healthy, and smart. But Republicans rail against these programs. Where is the "sanctity of life" in claiming to protect fetuses while ignoring the needs of children?

The debate about access to birth control burst into the American political scene in … well, sometime in the 19th Century. The issue was pretty much settled among most Americans about four decades ago. But the Republican Party, spurred on by the Christian right, brought the issue back this year. Why? Apparently because they consider birth control, in the words of far-right presidential candidate Rick Santorum, "a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage." Santorum doesn't seem to understand that contraception is often used to treat medical conditions, and that most married women use birth control at one time or another, including most Christian women. Is sex really only "sanctified" when it results in a child? Do conservative Christians know that birth control is the main tool we have to prevent unwanted pregnancies and, consequently, abortions? Where is the "sanctity" in making laws that invade our bedrooms and increase the number of abortions?

On the subject of marriage equality, American public opinion has reversed in recent years. More people now endorse marriage equity than oppose it, and an increasing number of states have overturned legal restrictions on who we love, this most personal of human freedoms. President Obama himself has come out in favor of marriage equality, much to the scorn of conservatives Christians. They love to quote the Old Testament verses calling male-to-male homosexuality an abomination. At the same time, they conveniently ignore similar verses that condemn eating shellfish and pork, wearing poly-blend fabric, and planting different crops in the same field. Even worse, many also tend to ignore the countless biblical references to loving one another. Where is the "sanctity" in ignoring many Bible verses while obsessing about a few that support a desire to discriminate against people who love each other and want to express their love publically and legally?

The Constitution of the United States doesn't mention God and only brings up religion to prevent the government from establishing theology into law. Of course, Jesus himself never said a word about abortion, birth control, or marriage equality. His teachings went far beyond what happens inside our underpants and focused on our minds, hearts, and souls. Maybe all Americans, Christian or not, should follow that example when we step into the voting booth.


Binders Full of Voters!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mitt's Mysterious Numbers


Romney Fails Commander-in-Chief Test Yet Again in Last Night's Debate

Moderator Candy Crowley fact-checked just one of Mitt Romney's many distortions during last night's debate when she correctly affirmed that President had indeed called the recent Libyan consulate attack an "act of terror" during a Rose Garden speech the next day (which was well before Romney himself used and derivative of the term "terror" to describe the attack). When Romney questioned Obama's honesty, saying he wanted to get the president's comment "for the record," Obama, fed up with years of Romney's lies, responded, "Get the transcript." Crowley somewhat reluctantly set Romney straight, saying, "He did call it an act of terror."

Some Romney supporters are attacking Crowley today for unfairly showing a "liberal bias." Some even say that she helped Obama win the debate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Obama won the debate by passionately defending his many accomplishments and not letting Romney get away with his multiple lies. Crowley was fair and truthful, and Romney lost the debate all on his own, thanks in no small part to his dishonest failure on the Libya issue.

The reality is that Romney's lie about the president's reaction to the Libya attack was so blatant, with Romney himself calling so much attention to it at that moment, that Crowley had no choice but to state a clear fact. Romney was in the middle of losing the debate, and he obviously thought he had caught the president in a "gotcha" moment that would make a sparkling sound-bite to distract from his overall debate loss. But Romney simply revealed more of his dishonesty, arrogance, and ignorance. Crowley may have actually done him the favor of not letting him dig his hole any deeper.

For more than a month, Romney has twisted the facts on the Libya tragedy in a quest for cheap political points. Instead of trying to unite the country in a crisis, Romney has done everything in his power to use the Libya attack to divide the nation. On the day of the attack, before even the basic details of the events were known, Romney falsely claimed that Obama's first response was to "sympathize with those who waged the attacks." Both the rapid nature and inaccurate content of Romney's attacks were unprecedented for a presidential candidate, and he was widely criticized by members of both parties for his rash and ignorant response.

Romney hasn't waited judiciously as the facts about these complex events continue to gradually unfold. Instead, he charged in blindly and took every opportunity to criticize the president without having full knowledge of what really happened. Such rashness is not a good quality for someone who aspires to be the leader of the free world. And Romney has offered very little constructive criticism, choosing instead to simply attack.

Worst of all, Romney so shamelessly used these American deaths that the father of slain Ambassador Christopher Stevens called politicizing the events " abhorrent." The mother of former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, killed in the Libya attack, was more specific in her criticism of how Romney was using her family tragedy for his own gain: "I don't trust Romney. He shouldn't make my son's death part of his political agenda. It's wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.”

Romney is fond of invoking former president Ronald Reagan, but Romney's response to the Libya attacks has been far different from Reagan's response to the 1980 Iran hostage crisis during Jimmy Carter's presidency. In contrast to Romney's injudicious attacks on Obama, Reagan called for national unity when he was a candidate for president running to unseat Carter. Reagan criticized Carter's foreign policy in general during the campaign, but he didn't attack Carter on the hostage crisis--even when the issue came up during their presidential debate. Romney had a similar opportunity to call for national unity during a time of crisis, but he chose to attack and divide America instead.

The third presidential debate next week will focus on foreign affairs, but Romney has already exposed himself as unqualified to lead our country in the world. Romney seems to think that organizing the Olympics and outsourcing American jobs to China makes him qualified on foreign policy issues. Even before his Libya missteps, Romney's embarrassing European tour showed that he is a terrible representative of our nation as he displayed profound ignorance of world affairs and the arrogance to offend even our closest allies.

Romney's incompetence and divergence from mainstream American views on foreign policy has been on display throughout the presidential campaign. He was against President Obama's decision to end the war in Iraq, and he has postured for going to war in Iran. He has largely ignored the war in Afghanistan (including not even mentioning it in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention). When he does actually mention it, he gives contradictory statements about how he would handle that war, an inconsistency amplified by his running mate Paul Ryan's naïve and confusing answers to questions about Afghanistan in the vice presidential debate last week.

Today many Romney supporters are blaming Candy Crowley for Romney's colossal "gotcha" debate failure. The party that loves to talk about "personal responsibility" is trying to shift responsibility from Romney to Crowley, and they look just as pathetic as Romney did at that moment in the debate.

Last night Romney punctuated what has been a full campaign of ample evidence that he would be even worse than George W. Bush in foreign affairs. Romney has been an abject failure each time he has weighed in on situations he might face as Commander in Chief. No amount of Republican spin can cover that fact.

President Obama perfectly summed up Romney's response to the Libyan attacks last night with just one word: "offensive." He's absolutely right, and Mitt Romney is absolutely wrong for the presidency.


Friday, October 5, 2012

How Will the Right-Wing Spin the Unemployment Rate Drop?

Good news for America ... the unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% to 7.8%. Still not where it needs to be, but an improvement.

Here are my predictions for how right-wingers in the media will attempt to spin the fact that the American economy has been recovering from the Bush disaster during Obama's presidency:

1) Obama secretly manipulated or falsified the unemployment rate to cover up his bad first debate performance. He's a completely incompetent president but somehow has the skill and power to fake the unemployment rate.

2) The "real" unemployment rate is 15%, not this "fake" 7.8% number that's been the standard measure for decades. Pay no attention to 7.8. It's really at least 15. Doom, despair, gloom, 15, 15, 15, damn it! Lather, rinse, repeat.

3) A Republican president would have magically had unemployment down to 0.0% because, you know, freedom and stuff.

4) The job creators are now hiring because they know that Romney will win the election in a landslide, thus returning America to the glory of a time that never really existed except inside right-wingers' minds.

5) The Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Tea Party really caused the drop in unemployment, not that nasty Kenyan Socialist Muslim who used voter fraud to steal the last election.

6) George W. Bush brought down the unemployment rate, obviously, right after he killed Osama bin Laden with his bare hands.

7) Sean Hannity exclusive: "We've uncovered video of a young Barack Hussein Obama telling jokes while wearing a fake mustache and glasses. He claims he was just innocently imitating Groucho Marx, but how do we know it wasn't Karl Marx, thus proving that Obama has been a committed Communist for decades?"

8) All of the above.


Update: I posted this piece as satire, but the line between satire and reality has been practically erased by today's right-wingers. Check out the conspiracy theorists' antics on just the first day of the unemployment rate news! Yikes!