Frank Rich in today’s NYTimes has put his finger on a major source of the ugliness that has surrounded the passage of the Health Reform Bill.  He observes that (despite Joe Biden’s take) this is really no f***king big deal —it’s not a government takeover of the health care system. Parasite middle-men private insurers will still run the game under the bill, but with less latitude to spike premiums and run up obscene profits by sucking the last dime out of their “beneficiaries” and/or dropping them when clients actually use their insurance.

Imagine contracting to buy a shirt under that arrangement:

Buyer: How much is this shirt?

Seller: $24.99 unless you wear it.

Buyer: How much if I wear it?

Seller: 50% more per month until the contract runs out.  After that we take the shirt back and cut you off from future transactions under Clause PE 1520.22 Pre-existing No-shirt-on-back.

Nazi Kristallnacht

What’s really going on here, says Rich, is a reaction of a certain segment of whites to the shifting demographics of the United States in which the chunk of whites is rapidly diminishing in relation to the chunks of color.  This is why there’s a heavy stench of racism emanating from tea-party rallies despite the fact that race has no essential part in the health reform issue (except that the lower classes will benefit undeservedly …which obviously means people of color) .

And what is really ominous is the enthisiasm of Republican leaders to whip-up already angry closet racists to do something really stupid.  Rich’s reference to the Nazi Kristallnacht is well placed, bricks through the windows of Democrats being recently reported.  All Kristallnachts begin with a single brick.

Rich observes that the tendencies of tea-partiers to go ballistic; to spit on black congressmen and hurl racial and homophobic epithets (as happened during the congressional debate) had its beginning during the presidential campaign of 2008.  He’s exactly right about this.

Half-white Barack . . . . . Half-baked Boehner

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The racially-charged emails I received from otherwise seemingly good people when I revealed my support of Obama during the presidential campaign were testimony to the festering resentment of many whites at the prospect of a “black” president  … black being the absolute identity (to some) of even a half-white person with darker skin (except, of course, for the mythic example of Senate Minority Leader, Hell-No-You-Can’t! John Boehner, who ironically bakes himself brown while remaining white as a parsnip not only in his heart, but in the minds of tea-partiers and “real” Americans coast to coast).
……………………………………………………..
…………………………………………………….
…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Sane and Insane Religion

March 15, 2010

Jesus and the Poor

…………………………………………..
…………………………………………
………………………………………
……………………………………………
………………………………………………..
………………………………………….
…………………………………………….
………………………………………………

Here’s a sane argument for sane religion.  Sane religion is anti-Glenn Beck, anti-Pat Robertson, anti-James Dobson, anti-politically-torqued religion; religion with both a heart and a soul instead of a gaping hole. 

Writer Paul Rauschenbush says this at the Huffington Post

“When we launched the Religion section of the Huffington Post one month ago,
I wrote a letter addressed to “Religious (and Sane) America.” Since that time, we
have had extraordinary contributions from across the religious landscape including
Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Main Line Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus,
Buddhist, and Atheists as well as those who defy easy definition. The conversation
has been enlightening, honest and, of course, impassioned. But perhaps most promising
– it has been sane. Our discourse has been has healthy and productive and the language
has been intelligible across religious divisions and beyond simple the categories of
religious vs. non-religious.”

…………………………….
……………………………

Jefferson, nyet!.........St. Thomas, da!

Textbook-wise we’re being dumbed-down by conservative religionists operating with the Texas State School Board who want to return us to the 17th and/or 18th century, but without the Enlightenment.  Blame free market capitalism which will chase a buck no matter what the consequences for the greater good —rank air, dead seas, species extinction, who cares if it means a better bottom line?  Have these folks never heard about the “arrow of time“, or Thomas Wolfe’s wise observation, “You can’t go home again?”  And what about a similar idea from the bible summarized, “Put your hand on the plow, don’t look back“?   

The truth is progress is a one-way street for textbook companies who must make a buck. The state of Texas is their biggest customer, so dumbing down school textbooks, filling them with fiction, and garnishing them with Christian sanctimony, is just good business if it means satisfying dogmatists and sectarian proselytizers with checkbooks.  Forget about what it does for the future prospects of young Americans who must compete in a global market requiring a fundamentally (no irony intended) sound education.  

If it were just Texas that was affected by the recent victory of Bible-centric conservatives striving to down-grade textbook standards it would be a pity for just Texan children —which might be god’s way of punishing Texas for its obtuse backwardness.  But because of the economic clout of the Lonestar state  in the buying of textbooks we must pity all American students —ah, if only Texas were really lone (all alone) floating somewhere between Mexico and the U.S. trying to wring sound science and practical sustenance out of a 3000-year-old book of legends).  Sadly, these new textbook guidelines will corrupt the textbooks that will be the basic reading material of most children in the United States; instead they’ll be studying info that has been yanked politically rightward, colored by religious dogma, historically questionable, scientifically untenable, and fictional at least in part.   

Here are some of the things the Texas State School Board wants to change in
school textbooks (From Texas Freedom Network):  

“Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for
separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture
about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment
‘not historically accurate’ “.   

“Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans
vote no, Democrats vote yes.  

“Let the word go out here: The Texas State Board of Education today refused
to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government
from promoting one religion overall others. They voted to lie to students by
omission.”  

*******  

“Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students
study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to
the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing
with ‘the writings of’) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and
others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers
listed in the standards.
………………….
We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out
that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas
and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist?
………………..
The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history
standards.”……………………
……………………

*******
“Board member Barbara Cargill wants to insert a discussion of the right to bear
arms in a standard that focuses on First Amendment rights and the expression of
various points of view.
  
This is absurd. If they want students to study the right to bear arms, at least try to
find an appropriate place in the standards for it. This is yet another example of
politicians destroying the coherence of a curriculum document for no reason other
than promoting ideological pet causes. Republican board member Bob Craig of Lubbock
is suggesting a better place for such a standard. But the amendment passes anyway.
The board’s far-right faction is simply impervious to logic.
 

————————————————–
………………..…………………….
It’s pretty clear that Republicans (many of the changes passed on party-line votes) and far-right conservatives in general have no compunction about using the Texas State School board as an instrument of the right to slant American history to favor their ideological view regardless of what that history may actually be.  They’re shameless in this regard.  It’s also clear what the economic rationale of textbook publishers is. 

Since Texas is the nation’s biggest buyer of textbooks, publishers must rewrite history to mollify conservative Texans, it’s the way capitalism works. The cost/benefit analysis for textbook publishers is simple: it would be unprofitable to turn out historically truthful and accurate books untainted by religious bias if they won’t sell in Texas.  And it would be even more economically unsound to publish separate lines of textbooks: one for the children of dolts and one for kids of parents who are not afraid of the truth and who care about how their children and the nation will fare in global competition.   

Since “the rapture” is just around the corner for fundamentalists (or is at least a real possibility), the day-to-day future of their offspring or the country is not their front-burner concern.  Better to prepare their kids for mass assumption into heaven to meet Jesus in the clouds. 

Meanwhile the Lord is probably weeping at how his simple teaching of love and justice for the poor could have become so methodically misrepresented by hierarchies, misused by demagogues, tortured by theologians, and pathetically misunderstood by the faithful.
……………………………….
……………………………..

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


………………………………
……………………..
I

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of a blackbird.

II

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendos,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
of one of many circles.

X

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
for blackbirds.

XII

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar limbs.

by Wallace Stevens

from Twentieth Century American Poetry
McGraw-Hill, 2004
………………………………
……………………………….