Tag Archives: politics

October Surprise

Surprise!  I’m posting.  And it’s not October anymore!

Think of this post as capturing the last month in the style of time-lapse photography but using words.

  • Please stop calling me.  I understand that I live in a swing state.  I am painfully aware of how important the upcoming election is.  But I’m also fed up with all of the political calls.  We went away for a weekend and returned to a voicemail box completely full of recordings from the local campaign office, various PACs, and political surveys.  Is there anyone who actually listens to these robo-calls?  I imagine that on the day after the election, our telephone will go silent.  We’ll go back to days without even one phone call.
  • Oh, Facebook.  How you disappoint.  First, there’s this: “Over the weekend, Facebook took down a message by the Special Operations Speaks PAC (SOS) which highlighted the fact that Obama denied backup to the forces being overrun in Benghazi.”  This story from Breitbart was updated to indicate that the message has since been allowed by Facebook.  Then, of course, there are all of the political posts by “friends.”  Whatever happened to politics being off-limits in polite conversation.  If it’s a no-go topic around the Thanksgiving table, then I don’t want to see it on Facebook either.  I have two or three Facebook friends who insist on linking to politically charged articles or making snide partisan comments on a daily basis.  If we were meeting in a coffee shop or talking over the fence, the conversation wouldn’t go that way.  So why does it on Facebook?  I couldn’t help myself last week and got sucked into a Facebook debate with one of these friends.  Did it make me feel better?  Nope.  It just makes me wonder how the real conversation will go the next time we meet in person.
  • What happened to the rest of them?  Why am I not hearing about more of this: “Peoria (Illinois) Bishop Daniel Jenky ordered priests to read a letter to parishioners on Sunday before the presidential election, explaining that politicians who support abortion rights also reject Jesus.”  Churches walk a fine line during election seasons.  They can’t come out and tell the faithful which candidate to support for fear of losing their tax exempt status.  But religious leaders also have a duty to instruct the faithful on how to apply religious teaching to real life.  In my parish, the closest we got to guidance about the election was a web page listed in the bulletin.  I wonder how many parishioners made the effort to check it out?  I have also seen pamphlets which, although well-written, vaguely discuss choosing a candidate according to the teachings of the faith ahead of self-interest and party loyalty.  The problem is that there is so little practical direction given from the pulpit.  How many pastors have taken the time to discuss issues in terms of Church teaching?  Of course it’s risky to do this.  Certainly some parishioners will be turned off by this type of preaching.  But how else are we to inform our consciences?  Shepherds, won’t you guide your flock?
  • Frankenstorm, Superstorm…Thank goodness someone had the good sense to stop calling Hurricane Sandy “Frankenstorm.”  What is it about our culture that is compelled to nickname everything?  Every political scandal has to have the suffix “-gate” attached to it.  Then there’s Obamacare, Romneycare, and so on.  Are we so freaked out by anything serious that we have to assign it a cutesy name to make it more palatable?

And that was October in a nutshell.

 

 

 

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In Which the Uncommonhousewife Becomes an Activist

Occupy Someplace or Other?  Definitely not.

Boycott Apple, Disney, Whole Foods, or the target of the day?  Please.

Nope.  I attended, and indeed dragged my children to our local Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally last Friday.  Maybe you heard of it.  After all, over 140 cities across the country held one.  Hopefully, the rally near you drew a bigger crowd than the 150 or so people who appeared with me.  (A note to the rally organizers: Lots of passionate supporters cannot leave work to attend a rally during business hours–even if it occurs during “lunchtime.”)  The small group did merit an itty bitty mention in the local newspaper.  The article referred to those of us in attendance as “activists”  and “protesters.”   Really?!  We First Amendment lovers are lumped into the same category with anarchist G7 protesters and the 99% grunge crowd?

So, there were rousing speeches, clever signs, some song and some prayer.  We even got the protection of a couple of city police officers on Segways.  The crowd was made up of young, old, and folks in between.  A Google search about the rallies produces articles from plenty of major news outlets: a surprise considering how the media largely ignores the annual March for Life, which draws hundreds of thousands each year.

In spite of the attention and the positive experience of gathering with like-minded people over a fundamental cause, I feel less energized and less optimistic than ever that this issue will be resolved justly.  With “American Idol” and March Madness on their minds, most Americans just can’t be bothered to consider whether their Constitutional freedoms are being stolen.  But along with that laziness and indifference, there is a strong current of Catholic hatred that makes any real discussion about the issue of religious freedom essentially impossible.  Just feast your eyes on some of these comments attached to the report of my local rally:

What they want is 2 billion Catholics in the world. More Catholics means more money and power for the church. To have a major religious organization with over a billion adherents worldwide eschew birth control is a travesty. What do they want, 1 person per square yard? Will that make the Pope and his Cardinals happy? OK, now lets house and feed that population. Luckily, most Catholics ignore the church’s stand on birth control. But what kind of religion is that? Give me a Unitarian anytime.

Since the Catholic Church in particular has failed to keep its female members from using hormonal contraceptives, church leaders are now pressuring government institutions to keep birth control pills as inaccessible as possible. That is exactly a violation of the separation of church and state, and anyone who values liberty should be outraged.

Things get really ugly when you look at the comments on the rally coverage for the Washington Post.

Before you Catholics think you can dictate the laws of the land, there is that little matter of harboring pervert child molesting priests.  Turn them all over for civil prosecution and you might have some credibility instead of being above the law.

Extreme Catholics need to grow up and realize that we are living in the real world, not a theoretical hair splitting world.  This is an instance in which Jesus would have said “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” rather than raise a stink to get exactly what he wanted.  The Church and the members should be out “loving thye neighbor” instead of indulging in self-pity.

This article is full of lies.  The Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations that seek to deny women control of their bodies are doing everything they can to deny women their legal and moral right to determine when and if they want to be a parent.  Because they know that direct attacks have been largely unsuccessful, they are trying to control women by making it impossible for them to find providers of reproductive health services.

At best, it seems that the dumb masses of America think this is all about sex and birth control.  At worst, the haters can use this very public stand by the Catholic Church against the Obama administration’s policy as a chance to rehash every evil ever perpetrated by a Catholic.

There is a lot of work to be done.  One of the most important tasks may be convincing whoever turns out to be the GOP nominee in the presidential election that  it can’t just be about the economy, that there are cherished liberties at stake.

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Religious Freedom…Where??

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, 1982:

Article 36. Religious freedom

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.

No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.

And yet, we know how freedom of religion plays out in Communist China.  According to a 2010 US State Department report:

The Department of State, the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and the U.S. consulates general … consistently urged the government to expand the scope of religious freedom in keeping with the rights codified in the constitution and internationally recognized norms…

The constitution protects religious freedom for all citizens but, in practice, the government generally enforced laws, administrative orders, and other policies that restrict religious freedom. Religious groups were vulnerable to action by local officials who often regulate through administrative orders.

The Constitution of the USSR, Article 52:

 Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda.

We know the reality of religious freedom in the Soviet Union, though, don’t we?  In fact, we even held Congressional hearings (find transcripts here) addressing religious persecution in the USSR, and we heard testimony such as this:

Religious groups do not have the status of independent public organizations under Soviet law…The law is structured to prevent the clergy or hierarchy from exercising effective control over church affairs. At the same time, it allows state officials to manipulate church activities and policies…

It is in this context that the Soviet attitude toward religion can be readily understood. To the extent to which religion can serve the ruling class it will be used. To the extent to which it interferes with the objectives of the ruling class it will be suppressed.  In today’s  Soviet Union these persons (the common people) may engage in religious observance as long as that is done in a place authorized by the government, at a time authorized by the government, and in a format authorized by the government.

The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

So how did we, the great bastion of freedom, the “shining city on a hill,”  get to this point:

The Department of Health and Human Services’ new rule requires almost all employers to provide insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacient drugs. Its religious exemption will not cover most Catholic institutions like health systems, universities, and charities.

The announcement prompted a strong outcry from religious schools, hospitals and charitable organizations, as well as Catholic individuals running secular businesses, who say that the requirement would force them to violate their religious beliefs.

However, despite the storm of protest, the Obama administration has refused to broaden the exemption to the mandate.

Just asking…

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Can I Get an “Amen?”

From Michelle Malkin.  I would only add that these guys give the “Occupiers” the benefit of the doubt on having a useful work to get back to.  Oh, and these folks in uniform are the 1 %, you know.  That is, less than 1% of the U.S. population has served in the armed forces in the last decade.

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was similarly blunt in describing the “Occupy Wall Street” movement:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/cnSAxmfjbas?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Thank you, Speaker Gingrich.

I wonder if anyone in New York City is worried about the possibility that these protesters might disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  They have already threatened violence.  Is the Department of Homeland Security on top of this?  Will anyone else be as disgusted as I will be if “occupiers” are the recipients of donated Thanksgiving Day meals?

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Red, White, and Blue Granola

Tis the season for presidential candidates to announce their run.  So far, there are a couple that were not surprises, one presumed candidate who’s out, one who was never really in but just stirred the pot a little, and a whole lot of others still thinking about it–out loud, in front of cameras.  Here’s to hoping that I won’t have to choose the least pathetic candidate when primary season begins.

It’s probably a very good thing that the field is so wide open because these days, I have a hard time placing myself in any candidate’s camp right away.  When I look over my voting-age years, I see that I have identified, to various degrees, with the red side and the blue side (well, not SO much with the blue side) and everywhere in between.  If I were forced to label myself, I would definitely go with Conservative, but I would qualify my label as “kinda crunchy” or a little bit “granola.”  The Urban Dictionary defines a granola conservative as someone who is politically conservative but has a “healthy suspicion of mass culture.”  This 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal prefers the term, “Whole Foods Republicans,” who “embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics.”  I’m thinking that sort of sounds like me:

  • I was a breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mommy who gave birth one time naturally, no drugs.  So, the natural childbirth was not by choice but because the anesthesiologist was too busy.
  • I homeschool my kids.  One year, I even made up my own curriculum.
  • I know how to bake bread.
  • I’m all about farm stands and buying locally produced food.  You can read more about my opinions on that here.  Basically, I’m in it for the better flavor and health benefits of fresh-from-the-field produce.  I grow my own herbs and vegetables on my patio (with mixed success), and I’m adding more this year.
  • Give me my grass-fed and hormone-free beef and chicken.  It’s safer since the animals are cleaner, and it’s better for me.  Happy cows make better milk and steaks.
  • Waste not, want not.  Let’s conserve energy and reduce our waste output.  I believe we are supposed to be good stewards of the earth and its resources.  I’m THIS close to putting up a clothesline…nothing beats the smell of line-dried sheets.
  • I drive a Volvo, and our other car is a hybrid. 
  • I hate to see trees cut down to make way for new housing developments.  I think public libraries should be a top funding priority for municipalities.  I would love to see more public transportation (fiscally sound, of course) and communities planned for walking to schools and amenities.
  • I graduated from a liberal arts college.  Yes, I’m an intellectual.

So far, it sounds like I’m ready to sign up for “Hope and Change” right?  Here’s where things get complicated.  Mash up all of the above with the rest of my ideology:

  • A strong national defense policy goes hand in hand with world peace.  The military has been my bread and butter since the day I was born.  No one  is going to get past me with the “baby killer” and “no blood for oil” nonsense.
  • The government, the Fed especially, needs to get out of the way and let the individual and the free market rise to the top.  Washington has no business handing out health care or preschool, paying people not to work, telling me what to eat or what kind of light bulb to buy.  Don’t take my tax dollars and spend it on Let’s Move programs or studies on World of Warcraft, jet lag in South American rodents, or internet dating.
  • Individual liberty applies to everyone, that includes the unborn.
  • I’ll conserve energy because there’s something in it for me–less money spent at the gas pump, smaller electric bill, or a warm fuzzy feeling about being a responsible steward of the environment–NOT because the government tells me to.
  • I’m happy to make donations to help out those in need.  By no means does the government have to take money away from me (taxes) and give it to the poor (welfare programs) upon pain of imprisonment.
  • You’re not truly poor if you have a cell phone, cable TV, a car, name-brand sneakers, or if you’re a regular at McDonald’s.  A whole lot of the people whom the government considers “poor” are, frankly, lazy or spoiled by handouts.
  • This country will never be “post racial” if some of our population insists on referring to themselves as Fill-in-the-Blank Americans or crying racism at every disappointment in their life.
  • If the light bulb can’t produce quality light, I’m not buying it.  The same goes for a fuel efficient car that’s so lightweight it’s a death trap.  And alternative energy sources that are not powerful enough are useless if they force me to sacrifice quality of living.

I’m sure I could go on and on.  As we enter the next election cycle, I’m feeling more Uncommon than ever.  Listen up, GOP.  There are conservative intellectuals out there who like farm stands.  There’s a Tea Party.  How about a Red Granola Party?  Or maybe a Whole Foods Right-Wingers Party?

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The President’s Reading Level?

Today had the potential to go south even before the sun was fully up.  That’s what happens when you schedule dental work for 8 a.m.  So after I got home and saw this article about the reading level of the State of the Union address, I had a good chuckle, and things started looking up for the day.  It seems that Mr. Harvard Law Review enthralled the nation with a speech that only managed an 8.5 grade level.  That places him nearly 2 full grade levels behind George W. Bush and Reagan.  He’s not even close to Kennedy (grade 12), Eisenhower (11.9), or Roosevelt (11.4).

The evaluation comes from the Flesch-Kincaide readability formula, which looks at number of words sentences contain and number of syllables in each word.  Here’s the formula:

FKRA = (0.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59

Where,

FKRA = Flesch-Kincaid Reading Age

ASL = Average Sentence Length (i.e., the number of words divided by the number of sentences)

ASW = Average number of Syllable per Word (i.e., the number of syllables divided by the number of words)

Pretty cool, isn’t it?  Especially if you are word freak like me.  Now, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey, the average adult reading level is 8th grade, but about a quarter of American adults read at or below a 5th grade level.  So I guess the president was on a par with most of his audience that night.  Here’s a question, though.  If the president is going to give his speeches at a level of comprehension equal to the average American, why do we need all of the talking heads in the news media to interpret the speeches for us?  Why do these folks devote hours of air time telling us what we actually heard from the president?

I find all of this rather embarrassing.  The leader of the United States, the only Superpower, addresses the Congress and the nation once a year.  This is the Big One: THE speech.  The best he can come up with is, “We do big things”?  Whatever happened to something like this:

Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this Chamber as we are meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty — this last, best hope of man on Earth. (Pres. Ronald Reagon, January 26, 1982, State of the Union Address)

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