Archive for August, 2011

A Comment Worth Highlighting:

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

I got the note below overnight regarding my recent post (late July, I think) on

“Must Ministers Always Be Men?” I include it here so the writer has easier access to my response, which, come to think of it, might be instructive for many of you:

“Thank you for your article. I found it searching for information on the Evangelical Free Church and its stand on woman ordination. Can you tell me where to find information on early woman pastors or elders and where I can find a current Evangelical Free church with a woman minister?”

I appreciate your comments, and while I did attend an egalitarian Evangelical Free Church in Pullman, Washington — Cornerstone — I don’t anything about the congregation now. You can email me, though, at kjajmix1@msn.com (that’s a “one” after “mix”) and I can give you a contact. The E-Free is one of the formerly egalitarian, women-ordaining denominations discussed in “No Time For Silence,” which chronicles the long, broad history of women’s ordination in the 18th- and 19th-century evangelical movement. If you contact me, I can get you a copy. There are several other excellent resources; contact me and I’ll give you some recommendations — and will also prepare a list of resources sometime this week for my other readers.

Bless you on your search!

Responding To A Very Annoyed Cathy

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Referring to my last post on the Tea Party, reader Cathy comments:

“I was absolutely NOT silent on the Patriot Act under Bush. I very clearly told you (by email) that I deplored it, and still do…”

To which I would say that my Tea Party columns, while attempting to answer hers and other readers’ questions, were not solely focused on her. I’d have to go back and check our correspondence, but while she may well have protested the Patriot Act, and good for her for doing so, I’m sure she can understand that my comments don’t specifically have only her as their target or as their point of origin.

Then she continues:

“As an act of fairness, please, do me a favor and name some Democratic buffoons. Surely there are some…

… As always, I agree w/little of what you have written. And, I tire of the racism accusation just because people actually have the temerity to question things about Obama. I am one of those thinking people. Why is it that if I question Obama on any number of issues, it’s racism, but when you call Bachmann, et al, a buffoon, it’s tempered, measured thoughtful criticism? This one ticks me off. I think Cain has some good ideas. Should I deduce from your post that you’re racist because you seem less than enthralled w/him? Argue words, but not the motivation of the heart. You cannot read minds, nor hearts, so stop accusing people of racism just because they don’t like Obama as president. Don’t impugn motives … Are there ANY conservatives you like?

That’s all.”

I think I may not be one of Cathy’s favorite people. But I do appreciate her willingness to do battle with me, and so I’ll answer her “name some Democratic buffoons” question first.

It’s not too tough, frankly. The whole party is tone-deaf at times and utterly lacking in the kind of backbone that leaves a legacy, not just wins elections. I believe I mentioned Charles Rangel already, and while I like Barney Frank’s politics, and probably would like him personally, he’s too sputtering-angry/smart-ass for my tastes. Although that doesn’t quite rise to the level of buffoonery, I guess, as he at least shows a command of facts and a high level of understanding of politics. I don’t much care for Jesse Jackson, I think John Edwards is a despicable man, I think that Bill Clinton was a brilliant president with serious, pervasive character issues, and I’m not fond of Washington Senator Maria Cantwell.

Other nationally-known liberals I don’t like include John Stewart, who is brilliant not only in his satire but also in his knowledge of politics, but far too mean-spirited for my tastes, and I detest the odious ramblings of Bill Maher, about whose contributions to political dialogue “odious ramblings” would seem sufficient. I love Rachel Maddow, like Lawrence O’Donnell, tolerate Keith Olbermann, and can’t stand Norman Goldman. I think Al Gore is right on global climate change, but he has an oily quality about him that turns me off. I wish Tipper had been the politically ambitious one in that now-failed marriage. And I’ll never apologize for thinking John Kerry could’ve been a remarkably effective President, even if his political instincts seemed lacking.

Neither will I apologize to liberals for finding Barack Obama’s relentless pragmatism and almost preternatural fondness for compromise maddening beyond belief, nor do I apologize to conservatives for my unalterable intention to vote for him in 2012. I suspect he will be a far better second-term president than he was in his first term, where he rightly acknowledges that a loss in 2012 would allow for the very real possibility of a Bachmann, Perry, or Romney victory. He also fought a House full of Republicans determined to defeat his every proposal, simply because they were HIS proposals. They’ve as much as said so; it’s difficult, then, to imagine how he could have done all that he likely planned to do. But still — I voted for a Democrat, and I’d like to see him act like the kind of 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s Democrats heralded in my house growing up.

I fault Obama for being so tardy in doing away with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, for ramping up the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, for presiding over an administration that’s actually deported more undocumented immigrants in its first 2 1/2 years than did the Bush administration in a similar period, and for only allowing us flashes of the inspiring brilliance, leadership, and understanding that so many of us saw — and were NOT fooled, but impressed, by — in 2008-2009. This man, should he survive his second term, has everything it takes to be one of the best presidents in history, and I want to see Barack Obama ignite not his base but the entire country. I’m not seeing that.

And Cathy would be wrong if she deduced from my criticism of Herman Cain that I’m a racist. If I applauded the entire Tea Party but only criticized Cain, and then only for nonsensical, made up, or superfluous reasons, that would be a reasonable deduction. Here’s where I charge much of the Tea Partyers with either practicing or countenancing racism:

The Tea Party’s entire goal is “cut government’s reach, cut spending, and cut taxes,” yet its loudest voices and the masses those voices command were largely silent during the eight years of a white, Christian president’s grotesquely intrusive government, out-of-control spending, and tax cuts for the super-wealthy. These shifted an enormous burden to the middle- and lower-class who now pack the meeting halls and fill the stadiums, and these things so purportedly offensive to the Tea Party all happened after the white, Texas, Protestant guy inherited a budget surplus he and his cronies ate up by reckless spending on two wars whose premises were, generously speaking, built on shifting sand. Oily sand.

But a too-powerful government, rampant spending, and “high taxes” (currently at about the rate they were in the 1950s for most people, considerably less for the richest in America) suddenly became a galvanizing state of affairs, with no remedy in sight save revolution, in 2008-2009 when Obama ran for the presidency, and the clamor and desperation and furor upon the Inauguration of a Black man Tea Party activists too often portrayed as a dark, devious, shadowy, lying foreigner — and a Muslim! — has to at least suggest that their discomfort has much to do with Obama’s race, perceived religious affiliations, and sinister “outsider” status. Almost half of all Tea Party believers polled consistently say they “don’t know” where the man was born, even when every other rational human being not living under a cabbage leaf sees that the question has been answered. Until I see a Tea Party protester rebuke a fellow activist for signs and rhetoric that portray Obama as a savage Kenyan, a Muslim, a Nazi, and a Commie/Socialist, I’ll have to believe, as I think any honest person would, that race and perceived nationality and religion have been tremendous energizers for the movement.

Does that mean that every Tea Party supporter is a racist? Of course not. But to suggest that the combination of racism and xenophobic suspicion somehow isn’t one of the proteins that fuels Tea Party muscle is dishonest. Put simply, George W. Bush violated these most precious tenets of the Tea Party and did so in spades — with nary a peep from the Right. People with integrity really ought to examine how it is that he got off scot-free while the guy they portrayed as the dark, sinister “other” has caught nothing but shit and vitriol for what he inherited from the good ol’ boy. And so, Cathy, let me ask you: Has the Tea Party and the GOP Right in general been unfair NOT in analyzing Barack Obama’s politics, but in burdening him — hobbling him — with charges that he’s not an American but a Kenyan posing illegally as a U.S. citizen, a socialist, a Muslim, someone reeking of “anti-American values,” and simply, in all the ways important to most people, “just not like us”?

Please take care with your answer; I want to consider my assessment of you as a reasonable person of integrity and insight.

A Little Taste O’ Wisdom On A Nice, Sunny Sunday

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

. . . and yes, it goes for me just as much as for any of you.

“It is a peculiarity of the Good Book that it elicits in its readers the strong conviction that it unequivocally supports their strongest convictions.”

Jacques Berlinerblau, Associate Professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, in “Thumpin’ It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today’s Presidential Politics,” Westminster John Knox Press, 2008

My Final Thoughts (Until I Have More) On The Tea Party

Friday, August 19th, 2011

My correspondence with Cathy, my anonymous critic, and another correspondent who prefers that I not publicly post her comments have kept me busy, busy, busy — and I love it.

It’s clear, though, that my readers disagree strenuously with my take on the Tea Party, whose leaders I see, as I wrote to a friend a month ago, as a hopelessly craven, blasphemously grasping bunch determined to shepherd a movement of people who are appropriately angry, but angry at the very institutions that could render them aid. Further, they’re entirely unthinking, I believe, in their alliance with those who applaud the very systems and policies that keep them suffering. Their anger at Big Government and Big Corporations seems curiously unilateral, perhaps because Big Corporations fund and benefit from the Tea Party’s efforts.

If lower-middle-class people believe they are taxed too much, it makes little sense to rail against those who would like to roll back the ridiculous Bush tax cuts and distribute the load more evenly. “Anonymous” believes that taxing the richest Americans will result in fewer jobs — which sounds simple enough, but isn’t borne out by facts or by economic history. The proportionately untaxed super-rich have allowed the tax burden to be shifted to those in the middle or below — and they’re not re-investing their profits into more jobs, and their lobbyists drive Congress to actually cut unemployment and other benefits for the lower-middle-class unemployed, the very people so angry with Government.

The Tea Party howls about the interference of Big Government, yet was silent during the Bush-era implementation of the Patriot Act. It rails against enormous national debt, but only found its debt-anger when Barack Obama was elected to manage the enormity of debt George W. Bush piled up. And instead of working within the system to solve the nation’s debt problem — and there IS a debt problem — they hold Congress hostage by refusing a debt-reduction measure crafted not just by Democrats, but by the Speaker who represents their own GOP.

It doesn’t define the whole Tea Party, but there’s some truth that for a part of the movement, the problem isn’t the national debt, but that it’s, in their eyes, a Black man’s debt. Can that be denied so easily when so much of the Tea Party’s inception involved questioning Obama’s citizenship, Americanism, religion, and “socialist tendencies”? I don’t recall anyone, really, questioning the citizenship of John McCain, who WAS born outside of the U.S., and, some reports say, not in a military hospital. It’s disingenuous to ignore the racist underpinnings of much of the movement’s inception, and I commend those in the Tea Party who pointedly condemn the racism of some of their allies.

The recent debacle over the debt ceiling was an embarrassing look at how the perpetually misinformed can very nearly shipwreck a nation’s economy. Can we honestly call the chaos that resulted in an anemic, impotent “compromise” any sort of statesman-like behavior on behalf of the country? Doesn’t it say something when Tea Party politicos, mostly freshmen, confidently state that an August 2 federal default wouldn’t have been such a big deal — when every intelligent, reasonable member of Congress, the GOP leadership, the head of the Federal Reserve, and virtually every economist consulted insisted that a default would have been an unprecedented disaster not just for the U.S., but for the rest of the world? Senator John Kerry and Obama adviser David Axelrod are correct in terming the S & P downgrade as a “Tea Party downgrade,” because S & P gave the loose and reckless language demonstrated by those who spoke so insouciantly about the consequences of default as a primary reason for its lowering of the U.S. credit rating. Those weren’t Democrats, and they weren’t mainstream Republicans. Words have consequence; this was a big one, even if S & P’s math was sketchy. Do we trust people who are seemingly unable to grasp basic economic policy, appear proud of that fact, and speak recklessly to a watching world about the integrity of their country’s debt obligations?

The Tea Party bigwig roster is full of buffoons, and I frankly think I’m speaking generously here. It’s one thing when Michelle Bachmann churns out a gaffe a day — mixing up Elvis’ birthday with the day of his death, for example — but it’s dangerous when Senator Tom Coburn laments, in opposition of Barack Obama and his Senate opponents, that he can’t carry a weapon on the Senate floor. How funny is that in light of the January shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? Presidential candidate Rick Perry suggests that Ben Bernanke would be acting “treasonously” if the Fed prints more money, and then veers off into how evolution is “just a theory.” Sigh. And Herman Cain, speaking at the Iowa Straw Poll and addressing a room full of people in a nation with unemployment hovering at about ten percent, snarks that his folks “made it” the “old-fashioned way — they worked.” Is it possible that Cain can’t imagine that he was speaking to people who would LOVE to “do it the old-fashioned way” — if only they had the opportunity?

Besides their Tea Party gusto, Cain, Bachmann, Perry, and Coburn, as well as Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Louie Gohmert, all proclaim their evangelical faith at every turn — and the largely evangelical crowd expects them to. Wouldn’t it be nice if their faith guided them toward a reasoned, reconciliation-oriented, and responsible approach to government? Does any conservative Christian really believe that the best of the best evangelical minds can be found on a Tea Party dais? As evangelical thinker Jim Wallis says, the Left doesn’t get it, and the Right gets it wrong. Wouldn’t a commitment to something other than rousing crowds to more anger help the Right veer onto the correct path, and show those Christian-ish folks on the Left how to live in Christ while in the public square? The Religious Right Tea Party has the microphone, with little or no idea of how to use it to benefit their nation, much less their Kingdom. It’s better to speak not at all than to represent Christ in the public square by acting like boarish newcomers to a solemn convocation.

Why the Tea Party NOW, anyway? Is it possible that these people see Barack Obama as so irredeemably evil — not just wrong in his politics, but utterly lacking in morals and character — that any and all attacks are warranted, even the most vicious, racist, and irresponsible? How in God’s name — and I mean that literally — is Obama’s continuation of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as bad as that is, anywhere near the evil of the Bush duplicity and manipulation that got us there in the first place? Do pro-life activists consider, even for a moment, the loss of life of 5,000 American soldiers and many more thousands of Iraqis? Does Bush’s anti-abortion rhetoric somehow excuse the slaughter he unleashed in Iraq? Is the “pro-life” movement brave enough to simply acknowledge that its devotion to life is almost solely focused on the unborn? How is Barack Obama anywhere near as bad, his administration anywhere near as dubiously “Christian,” as the blissfully and boldly evangelical George W. Bush?

It’s easy to define the Tea Party by signs like “Hands Off My Medicare, Washington!” — but isn’t it more than a little odd that the Tea Party elderly who benefit from Medicare, the government-sponsored program that guarantees medical care until natural death for people older than 65, are so vehemently opposed to “Obamacare”? Would any of the Tea Party candidates, nationally and locally, refuse their Medicare benefits upon turning 65?

I’ve written more on this during the week than I have on any other topic, and you all know where I stand. I believe I’ve answered the questions posed to me by my correspondents, and my intent is to switch direction to address other topics, like the Douglas Wilson/Mark Driscoll conference here in Moscow next month. Mark Driscoll attracts controversy like a chicken farmer attracts shit — but the farmer is doing honorable work. Driscoll isn’t, and it’s time for me to move on to him and other things.

Cathy’s Rounding Third And "Anonymous" Is On Deck …

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

I trust that earnest correspondent Cathy feels that I’ve tried to respond to her Aug. 6 letter to me — the one I didn’t actually read until the 14th — and I hope to hear from her if she has any further points to make, or any other objections to register. I sincerely thank her for her time and interest.

Now I’ll map out my response to Anonymous, who’s getting a break from my policy of not responding to those who don’t use their names in criticizing me because he nonetheless levels some interesting and pointed criticisms at me, and I wouldn’t want him to think he’s heaping coals of shame on my head if I don’t answer him. Please, though, remember that I write everything I write under my own name; further, I post a photo, personal information, and 57 different ways to contact me in this blog precisely because of the accountability I owe readers and the integrity I owe my God. So, anon, please use your name — even just your first name. (Of course I won’t know if you’re Rick or Chuck or Vladimir or whomever; still, you should muster up enough courage to use your real name. It’s not that scary, I promise).

Here’s a rough outline of what I’ll be addressing from his comments, which I posted yesterday in their entirety. First, I’ll deal with my charge that the Tea Party’s agenda is dangerous to the country, its methods dangerous to this democracy, and its embrace of simple, even non-sensical, “solutions” dangerous to those who follow it. Then I’ll discuss why I think presidential advisor David Axelrod and Senator John Kerry were right in calling the recent Standard & Poor downgrade of the nation’s credit rating “a Tea Party downgrade.” I’ll wrap up with a defense of the liberal notion that government, properly run and properly reined in, can and should do enormous good for the people — with an acknowledgement that it very often has failed in that mandate. And while I’d like to hear from him again, I plan to move on to other subjects, coming back to the Tea Party only when events make it necessary.

Because at some point I have to fold some laundry and sweep these floors — subjects about which neither the Obama administration nor the Tea Party nor Congress care much about. Pity. I wish they knew where the bag of gray work socks went . . .

One More Tea Party Post Before Bedtime

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Reader Cathy took me to task for my having referred to the Tea Party as largely “Christian,” pointing out in her missive, which I posted Saturday, that the Tea Party doesn’t preach the Gospel or promise salvation.

I agree that it doesn’t preach a Gospel even remotely like that of the New Testament’s, and it doesn’t promise eternal life — just a life wherein they’re not taxed “to death,” or where the ideals of the Founding Fathers don’t “die off” from the effects of some nasty liberal elite, or where “death panels” don’t pop up via Obamacare to knock off Granny. So I suppose Cathy and I are in agreement: There’s nothing “Christian” about the Tea Party. I’d go a step further by saying there’s much about it that’s not at all Christian — and by that I don’t mean “neutral.”

I see it as a movement primarily fueled by people who believe the dismay articulated, and the solutions advanced, are consistent with — perhaps necessitated by — their Christian faith. In that respect, I think it’s largely a Christian movement, and that’s further supported as much by the Religious Right affiliations and prayers that accompany most rallies as it is by the near-total lack of participation by traditionally not-Christian religious and ethnic groups. Further, Tea Party standard-bearers like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Herman Cain have appropriated the vernacular, emblems, and trappings of an Evangelical revival. I can’t think of any Tea Party politicos who haven’t made much of their faith or who haven’t had Evangelicals to thank for their successes. It would be hard for me to imagine, frankly, how a devout Muslim or atheist who preached the Tea Party’s line would do at the polls.

It’s not their fervent faith that bothers me; what I find objectionable is the conflation of Christian faith with conservative/libertarian/Tea Party principles. Is there really a Christian exclusivity to Tea Party beliefs? More to the point, is there perhaps a morality that’s more distinctly Christian than a belief, for example, that the debt ceiling ought not be raised? Or is it inherently Christian to insist that tax rates currently at rates similar to those of the 1950s, with a burgeoning population and tremendous, and tremendously neglected, social needs, nonetheless need to be cut further — regardless of the harm it does to “the least of these”? Is naked nationalism or a greedy grasp of political power “Christian”? Finally, is disdain for government and its role in effecting God’s will in the orderliness and ordering of society an appropriate Christian belief?

No one is a true Christian who would check his or her faith at the door when entering the political arena, although it would be nice that if in embracing their faith while so entering, they’d also consider it a testimony to their faith in Christ to study the issues, understand the facts, learn to deal with context, and display some command of real solutions apart from rhetoric. But the Tea Party has taken the GOP and Libertarian disregard for the marginalized and perfected it, developing an entire party full of largely marginalized people nonetheless voting for those who’ve profited from their marginalization and whose policies will guarantee its continuation. “Doing unto” the least of these probably shouldn’t include bamboozling them.

I’ll end with a Biblical defense of government found in the Genesis account of Joseph, acting as steward of Pharoah, who “taxed” the people out of their wheat crop in order to store it in preparation for the famine whose severity and duration God had foretold in him. Joseph acted as part of an “unbelieving” government, one whose ruler and household likely would’ve survived the famine without much regard to the people under him, and certainly one who worshiped pagan gods.

But Joseph, centuries in advance of Romans 13, was led by God to seize the crop grown by the populace and store it for the good of all — even those “foreigners,” his own Israeli family later immigrated to Egypt. It was Pharoah’s government that took control of production and product, withheld a portion for the greater good — even redistributed the grain-wealth — under the direction of God and for the greater blessing of the nations. I find the story fascinating, not just as a testimony to faith, forgiveness, and family loyalty, but as a God-given template of what government can do when functioning in its proper role. And, unlike the illustration of collectivism in Acts, this example was not specific to the Church and, in fact, gains its strength precisely because it wasn’t.

So I don’t apologize for being a believer in what government can do. I believe that even secular governments can be used of God to maintain His priorities for society. That society will always include the poor, whose needs seem woefully underrepresented in the agenda of the Tea Party. The test of whether or not a political movement is “Christian” is not the religious rhetoric and trappings, or even the genuine piety, of those in it. It’s the degree to which it seeks the heart of Jesus for the poor and forgotten — not seeing government as savior, but government as a tool of the Savior to uplift the downtrodden.

Another Reader Weighs In

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I’m going to go against my policy of not devoting any time to people who leave me anonymous comments because the reader who wrote the missive below, whoever he or she is, takes me to task for my Tea Party comments — my initial assessment and my response to Cathy, as well as yesterday’s apology for my comments on FOX viewers. To not respond, or to keep this hidden in the Comments section, would make it appear that I’m ducking the challenge, something I like even less than I like rewarding anonymity.

It does appear that I’ve struck a nerve. I’ll let Anon’s comments fill the rest of this, other than my answer to his/her bewilderment over the phrase “intellectual foment.” It seems fairly straightforward; Google and see if there are other usages of the phrase that predate mine. To “foment” means to promote or instigate the growth of something; “fomentation,” or the act of promoting discontent or strife, is perhaps more clear. I trust that the confusion comes from my having used “foment” as a noun when it’s more commonly used as a verb, but I meant it in more of a laboratorial/growth-culture/bubbling-product-thereof sense. But by “foment,” and specifically in having said that the Tea Party is not a hotbed of intellectual foment, I mean “foment,” while acknowledging that it is also an example of the “fomentation” of political discord.

So what does the Tea Party, then, have to do with “intellectual foment”? I’ll bite my tongue here; it is, in my opinion, a movement — and I speak of the Tea Party not as an organization, which it isn’t, but as a movement — that does NOT promote an intellectual, reasoned analysis of sociopolitical and economic problems. Therefore, if I believe it to be fueled by an anti-factual, anti-intellectual approach to solving problems, and if that approach is not only birthed in but encouraged by the perpetuation of the movement, it seems clear that while the Tea Party is a hotbed of many things — you might say, for example, a hotbed of patriotic foment, or of Libertarian foment — it cannot be thought of as a hotbed of “intellectual foment.”

Whew. All this without a drop of coffee.

Anyway, here’s what my humble correspondent wrote:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post “RE: Are FOX Viewers Less Well-Informed?”:

… I am not involved w/the Tea Party, but neither do I believe that building straw men makes your case. BTW, I’m not sure that I understand how you’re using the word “foment.” Please explain that one while you’re at it…”intellectual foment.” HUH?

Exactly what do you mean when you state, “…but because they seem to believe that facts matter less than rhetoric and that sound bites equal good policy. They have chosen to abandon what’s true for what’s preferred, have been energized by rage over reason, and have entrusted their political, social, and economic futures to a group of people either as un-informed as they continue to choose to be, or who benefit enormously from their followers’ continued wanderings in the angry darkness”? From my point of view, you’re guilty of using rhetoric in this paragraph. There is nothing specific, only generalizations. First of all, who is “they?” Secondly, WHAT has been abandoned? What “angry darkness?” Can you really expect to make those kinds of statements w/impunity? To what are you referring?

I just looked up the Tea Party’s objectives, and I see nothing angry (or ignorant) about them. What is wrong w/wanting limited government, w/states’ rights, etc.? And, even if you don’t agree w/their agenda, why try to minimize them by taking shots at their intellect? Your view is an elitist one, i.e., if you don’t agree w/the goals and objectives, well, then, “they” must not be too smart, or a thinking people. Instead, they’re being blindly led. This is utter nonsense. I am a thinking person, and I don’t like big government, and I get tired of the Constitution being ignored. Geez, I’m must be ignorant, and a follower. Hogwash.

I suppose you agreed w/the party line of John Kerry and Axelrod when they stated that the credit downgrade was a “Tea Party downgrade.” Really? Why not focus on those kinds of ignorant, nonsensical statements rather than your assertions that are broad-based and sweeping? Frankly, for all your protestations, you write using lots of rhetoric and very little of substance. Please speak to the fact(s) that the government is broke, wastes our tax dollars, etc., and, how in the name of safety, our rights are being eroded (think BART turning off cell phones–I live in CA)? Just how much do you trust government? Have you ever taken the time to think about this idea that liberals bandy around about taxing the rich? Just how much do you think that you can pay toward the deficit by taxing the “rich” more? And, if you tax small businesses more, how do you think that the tax hike will be made up? All that will be done is that the tax increases will be passed on to the consumer. It’s pretty simple math.

I will wait to read more of your response.

RE: Are FOX Viewers Less Well-Informed?

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I appreciate longtime correspondent Kris N., who challenged my contention in yesterday’s blog posts about the Tea Party that FOX News viewers were generally not very well-informed about current issues — a factor, I believe, in their rush to a Tea Party not working at for their best interest.

And I had intended to wrap up my response to Cathy by discussing how poorly-held Tea Party leaders’ grasp of government is, but first I need to acknowledge that there is evidence that FOX News viewers, according to one study, are not really more- or terribly less-well-informed than others, but rank about average. Kris forwarded me that study, which you can review here:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/jun/20/jon-stewart/jon-stewart-says-those-who-watch-fox-news-are-most/

This certainly means that the research discussed does NOT conclude that FOX viewers are consistently less well-informed, and so, insofar as I based my contention on research, I have to say that it does NOT support what I said. But here are other studies that do:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×3563986

Please note that while the website is a Democratic one, the research wasn’t conducted by pollsters of either political affiliation. There’s also:

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2007/04/16/11946/daily-show-fox-knowledge/

Again, this is a liberal site, but it reports on another Pew Research poll.

Here’s the point: I was wrong in suggesting that it is a universally-held truth that FOX News viewers are less well-informed than other media consumers, and for that I apologize. I acknowledge that the three studies offer different conclusions; you’re all able to make up your minds as to which is/are more compelling. Nonetheless, the evidence isn’t rock-solid, and I was wrong in proclaiming that it is. Neither should I have conflated what I see as the Tea Party’s willful, stubborn ignorance with a general ignorance on the part of FOX viewers, and I shouldn’t have relied on one report — the poll regarding information on FOX viewers and knowledge of the Iraqi War/WMDs — to make a point just as easily made without discussing FOX at all. In short, it was sloppy on my part, and I apologize.

I don’t believe, however, that changes my previous analysis of the Tea Party, and I don’t think it affects what I had planned to write about tomorrow — that Tea Party leaders show an unnerving lack of understanding of history, government, and economics. Our three-year acquaintance with the Tea Party has demonstrated that, particularly in the campaigns of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and other standard-bearers past and present, the expression of anger and an opportunistic grasping for power take up far more energy than a determined grasp of the facts.

In short, I do not see the Tea Party as a hotbed of intellectual foment, not because the people in it are stupid, but because they seem to believe that facts matter less than rhetoric and that sound bites equal good policy. They have chosen to abandon what’s true for what’s preferred, have been energized by rage over reason, and have entrusted their political, social, and economic futures to a group of people either as un-informed as they continue to choose to be, or who benefit enormously from their followers’ continued wanderings in the angry darkness.

Tomorrow or Wednesday: What The Tea Party Gets Wrong (And Seemingly Takes Pride In Doing So), and, finally, Why I Refer To It As A “Christian” Movement — And Always With Quotation Marks. Stay tuned.

And Kris — thanks again. Really.

Veering Wildly Off Topic, But Promising To Come Right Back …

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

… I rarely read “Parade” magazine, because I don’t care about celebrities, gossip, or recipes bursting with downhome wholesome goodness. Kinda hate “wholesome goodness” in describing food, I do.

But Jeff got the Sunday Spokesman-Review, so I read Parade. The last article had a presumably humorous piece on how baby-boomers don’t like to be called by traditional “grandparent” names, and it offers some examples or suggestions for those of us born too recently to EVER “really” be grandparents. Obviously, though, I truly AM old enough, although I’m not, because I got all cranky-like in reading that kids are allowed to call their grandparents things like:

“Mellowman”

“Big (or Bigger) Mama”

GeezerGirl and GeezerGuy

Puggles

Crackpot

Jelly and Buster

Thompson

And may the man who wants to be called “El Funkinator Grande” grandparent nothing more complex than gerbils.

My kids’ maternal grandmother is Emma (for all of my life, kids couldn’t pronounce “Mrs. Emerine,” so they called her “Mrs. Emma.” “Emma” seemed like a sweet grandmotherly name); their paternal is Nana, whose mother, their great-grandmother, was simply “Nan.” Jeff’s dad is “Papa,” (although one of my nieces calls him “Peanuthead,” which I dislike, and my father was “Grandpa Steve.” I had, growing up, a “Papa,” a “Granma Lou,” and a “Mother Dear.” My sons would never have dared, or would only have dared once, to call a grandparent “Geezergirl” or “Puggles or “Jelly.”

I know that it’s affection, not names, that build grandparent-grandchild relationships, but relationships are also built on respect. It’s simply not respectful, and perhaps even disrespectful, to call an elder, any elder, by a name that denotes silliness, insult, or overfamiliarity. My kinda-sorta — chosen — nieces and nephews and my brother’s daughter call me “Aunt Keely” or “Tia Keely,” and Jeff is ALWAYS “Uncle Jeff.” I was raised to call those older than I am by “sir” and “ma’am,” and I continue to do so. I don’t mind if my kids’ friends call me Keely, but I do mind if they do it without asking permission to.

See? I AM conservative about some things!

When either of my sons has a baby, we’ll go for Gran and Grandpa, most likely, or, if the baby’s mother speaks Spanish, Nana and Tata or Abuelito and Abuelita. But I won’t encourage a culture of incivility, disrespect, and overfamiliarity by allowing such silliness. I guarantee “Big Mama” and “GeezerGuy” aren’t taking ANY Mix grandkids to the park, ever.

Response To Cathy, Part 2

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

So, do I think all Tea Party followers are “toothless hillbillies,” as Cathy suggests?

Not at all. I believe the Tea Party is NOT the political tool or sociopolitical home of its supporters as much as it’s a tool and a message of the GOP elite, the Dick Armeys and Koch Brothers and State GOP strategists who lend their considerable backing to a “populist, grass-roots” movement that convinces people to vote against their own bests interests as well as the general interest of the United States.

It’s the GOP rich, not the people carrying signs, who benefit from absurdly low marginal tax rates on incomes over $265,000, continued tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and massive government deregulation and slashing of social-services funding like continued unemployment checks for those — even those unemployed sign-carriers — still unemployed in the worst recession in most of our lifetimes. The “grass-roots” Tea Partiers are being deceived, and when I say they “stupidly” support a movement that has prospered from their deceit — a deceit made easier by the bland lack of discernment and powder-keg anger they demonstrate — I mean just that.

The people are not “stupid,” but it is undeniably stupid to vote on the basis of wrong information (the President is a Muslim, his trip to India cost $200 million a day, Congress wants to take your guns, Obamacare is “socialized medicine,” etc.) and be proud of it. Bright, concerned people seek out good information, which is why I don’t get mine from either Fox or MSNBC, but from CNN, which is hardly liberal, unless you define liberal as “willing to expose Tea Party-dishonesty,” and from the Associated Press, a fixture of unbiased media for decades. I get both The American Standard and Mother Jones and balance it with Time Magazine; I enjoy MSNBC, but it’s dessert after the meal, not the main meal itself that feeds my political engagement.

Polls consistently show that people who watch FOX News are overwhelmingly more likely to give factually-wrong answers to questions on current events; I think it’s not just “conservative-bashing” to infer that FOX News is less a news source than a purveyor of the GOP party line. MSNBC, whose readers poll higher in their grasp of current events, is nonetheless more a source of liberal analysis than it is an unbiased news source, although its “straight news” coverage appears unbiased, if bland. Acknowledging that ought not be painful, and woe to anyone whose political views come solely from one side or another.

I see the Tea Party as a group of hypocritically angry and shockingly mis- or un-informed people who have decided now that we have a Democratic President, it’s time to get mad about the deficit, about overspending, about Big Government. This is typical whenever a perceived liberal — and Obama is not — is in the White House. What’s atypical here is the incongruity of a movement that sprung up AFTER eight years of staggering ineptitude, gross overspending, reckless overfunding and vicious underfunding resulting in a weakened country and a Chilean mine-deep budget deficit.

Where were these “outraged patriots” when George W. Bush, who took office with a budget SURPLUS, ran us into the ground by launching two wars (one deceitful and unnecessary, the other disgracefully planned) AND cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, something generally considered in American history to be almost criminally stupid? Where was their outrage when their cities were falling apart because of a studied lack of support for basic infrastructure needs — needs that haven’t gone away and have in fact worsened, and that have to be addressed now, even with a budget crisis, because “W” ignored them?

Where were these “patriots” and “big government” foes when Bush lied to get us into a war with Iraq? Would real patriots countenance such a blatant “false-flag” operation? Do proud veterans necessarily have to accept the deaths and maiming of younger veterans in a war birthed long before 9/11 and launched with hysteria only barely polished for public consumption? THAT’S patriotic? Where was their anger at Bush’s Patriot Act, the most obscene example of Big Brother looking into your metaphorical window and stationery chest seen in this generation? I don’t recall seeing them on the streets hollering when the GOP and the Democrats in previous Congresses raised the debt ceiling numerous times in the last decade or so. Do you?

Where were all of these angry lovers of America and committed haters of bloated government under eight years of unleashed GOP spending? Does the Tea Party have any concern at all about the biggest recipients of “welfare” — the corporations who seek and are granted unfettered access to the trough with nary a thought toward re-investment in their communities. And take a look at history: It’s Republican presidents, not Democratic, who have presided over the biggest deficits in this half-century. But have you ever heard the Tea Party thank Bill Clinton for ending his tenure with a budget surplus, or excoriate “W” for blowing it to hell and back by trillions?

Finally, has it occurred to you that the grotesque and sinful preoccupation with casting Barack Obama as the dark, shadowy, suspicious, not-like-us “other” — a foreign-born, anti-American secret operative of God-knows-who-or-what — might explain the sudden “outrage” of the Tea Party? For eight years, Bush’s Washington exhibited diarrheac spending and gross abuses of power. For two and a half years, the Obama Administration has spent on those things that have to be repaired and supported, like infrastructure and schools, and his contribution to the national debt is largely a necessary response to the preoccupation of the Bush White House not with making this country strong, but with further fouling the situation in the Middle East — resulting in an America much less respected, and frankly much less secure.

I believe the Tea Party supporters, then, are acting hypocritically — either because they’re pitifully uninformed and thus manipulated by the rich who stand to benefit from policies enacted by their “outrage,” or because they’re comfortable in a bigotry that, if not directly against Barack Obama’s name and skin tone, certainly privileges the good-ol-boy person of George W. Bush. If they continue in a movement that makes a virtue out of embracing misinformation and fueling itself by irrationality, they deserve to be judged as having acted stupidly. And if Tea Partiers continue to focus on creating a “shadowy, suspicious ‘other’” out of their President, they deserve to be judged as those exhibiting a toxic civil bigotry.

I intend to judge those actions, while praying for the lower-middle-class and poor people in the movement so duped, so exploited, and so manipulated by the very people largely responsible for their disenfranchisement and despair. That will be the topic of my next post, but for today — I’ve gotta give these fingers a rest!

Thanks, Cathy, and I hope to hear from you soon.