Monday, May 18, 2015

Tsarnaev verdict confirms: US is no "Christian" nation

Last week the sentence came down: Death to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The verdict, zealously sought by federal prosecutors, dispels any right-wing pretense that the United States is a "Christian" nation. Or it ought to, anyway.

Consider: Tsarnaev is no longer a legitimate threat to others. Live or die, the man will never again be able to harm anyone. Not even himself. Howsoever long his life may last, he will spend his days in a prison cell, isolated from humanity. If he lacks remorse, as the prosecution asserted, he will have ample opportunity to learn it in the long years of emptiness that await him. (Ask Sirhan Sirhan about that!) And if he did somehow maintain his hatred over the course of his life? If he continued his defiance and anger? Would that not be a fate worse than death? Decades of impotent rage! God save us all!

None of this is to say that human beings should not do what they can to protect themselves. For example, in the case of Osama bin Laden, death was necessary for a dangerous man who remained a threat to civilization. There was small difference between him and a renegade grizzly bear (an analogy I've made before.)

But how quickly do we desert our purported faiths in favor of primal satisfaction? (I refer Christians to Matthew 5:39). 

Fifty-eight percent of the residents of the (very blue and very Catholic) state of Massachusetts, including family members of some of the victims, oppose the sentence. But in the larger pool of the United States' general citizenry 53% support it. And the justice system came down on their side.

It's a fascinating and revealing phenomenon. And, make no mistake: the sentence is not about Tsarnaev or even what he did.

It's about us. It's about who we are.

Killing this man fulfills some primal need humans have for vengeance. It's residual behavior from our Stone Age state-of-existence. In the ~10,000 years since civilizations first arose, there has been much progress, but barbarous relics like the death penalty remain.

We're not a Christian nation. Can we let go of that ridiculous notion?

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Hillary's immigration remarks demonstrate real political savvy

Disclaimer: As I stated in a previous post, for the 2016 Presidential election, Bernie Sanders is my man. So long as he's in the race, he has my vote and my support. This post is in no way an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Let's see how many commenters (here or on Facebook) misinterpret it.

This is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake, not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second class status. --Hillary Clinton, May 5, 2015, Las Vegas, NV
Hillary Clinton made these remarks last Tuesday during a campaign event in Las Vegas and in doing so demonstrated formidable political acumen. Her Republican counterparts, those that haven't thrown in with quixotic xenophobes, have got to be tugging at their collars while they're thinking about how to respond.

Besides having the virtue of being true (bring up immigration reform in a Republican forum and watch how quickly the conversation devolves into racism and xenophobia), Hillary's remarks are a dagger thrust right at the Republican field where they are most vulnerable. Specifically, the dismal demography of the shrinking GOP base.

Consider: In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won a whopping 59% of the white vote, nationally. Twenty years ago, that might have been an electoral landslide in his favor. But with demographic trends being what they are, Mitt still lost the general election by 4%. And a big part of his defeat was due to the drubbing he received from hispanics, who went for President Obama by a 71-27 margin. Simply stated, if Republicans cannot find a way to appeal to hispanics and other minorities, they are, as a party, doomed.

For some GOP candidates (Ted Cruz is the most obvious example), none of this makes any difference. They've already determined that their own electoral success lies in stoking up the anger and self-pity of the Republican base. You know? The people that are convinced that President Obama is a Muslim and a Kenyan and is planning to invade Texas and force everyone to attend gay weddings. For these candidates, Hillary's remarks are helpful.

But the numbers aren't lost on thoughtful Republicans. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, for example, know the delicate path they must walk if they hope to succeed. On the one hand, to survive the Republican primary system, they've got to reassure the vociferous base that they sufficiently despise President Obama, that they are sympathetic to the fears of the diminishing white majority, and so on. But, on the other hand, if they want to avoid Romney's fate in the general election, they can't completely alienate hispanics. It's a difficult position and it is one the Republicans made for themselves when they put all their eggs in the Far Right basket.

So, Hillary, with her remarks, has highlighted this dilemma and brought it to the fore. Soon enough, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and any other serious Republican candidates are going to have to state their positions regarding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And no matter what they say, they're going to alienate some portion of potential supporters.

Further, Hillary's tack puts her on the offensive. Rather than responding to white noise pseudo-scandals about emails or Clinton Foundation funds, she is staking out a position that is aimed right at that demographic that Republicans are so desperate to reach.

As far as the merits of her position, for my part, it only makes sense to find a way to bring the 10 million plus undocumented immigrants in this country into the fold, as full United States citizens. They are here. They're here to stay. And, being human beings, they deserve the same rights and privileges as anyone else.

Impressive, Mrs. Clinton.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Bernie Sanders for President!

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced this week that he will run for President of the United States in the upcoming national election.

The media is treating his candidacy with disdain, predictably enough. And really, I don't blame them. In today's political climate there are (at least) two sound reasons for doubting the Senator's chances.

Reason #1: Senator Sanders is running to be the Democratic nominee. That means he is running against Hillary Clinton and the well-funded, ruthlessly efficient Clinton political machine. A formidable (and if we're to believe the prevailing political wisdom, perhaps insurmountable) obstacle!

Reason #2: Although Senator Sanders is running as a Democrat, he is actually an independent and more specifically (hang on to your hats, right-wingers), he's a capital-"S" Socialist. He advocates raising taxes on upper incomes. He advocates a single-payer health care plan. Closed-minded right-wingers will be unable to see past those things.

But, unlike so many politicians from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush and everyone in between, Bernie Sanders doesn't run away from his political positions. He defends them. Here's a video: Bernie Sanders announces run for Presidency.

 I've followed Senator Sanders for years and from my perspective, he knows exactly what this country needs. He recognizes and rejects the seemingly inexorable drift from democracy to plutocracy. He sees the disastrous resource gap that exists between the middle class and the affluent. He sees the importance of addressing the looming climate change catastrophe. He vociferously opposes the unfair trade deals that have decimated manufacturing jobs in this country.

But that's just the beginning. You can learn more on his Facebook page.

For you Democrats out there: Were you really all that excited about a primary season that was shaping up to be little more than a Hillary Clinton coronation? Like many of you, I was resigned to voting for her, if I had to, but what little enthusiasm I had for that endeavor was due solely to her not being a Republican! I really didn't look forward to the endless equivocating, empty populism, and spineless pragmatism that characterizes Clinton politics. And I especially resented the presumption of supposedly in-the-know Democrats and media pundits who assured us that the nomination was hers for the taking. I wonder how nervous they are now, knowing that Senator Sanders raised $1.5 million in small donations the very first day of his campaign!

Open-minded right-wingers, I urge you to listen to Senator Sanders. Listen to what he has to say. Here's a video of him on your favorite news network, talking with Chris Wallace last Sunday: Bernie Sanders on Fox News.

Senator Sanders is running a populist campaign and he's aiming right at every American who has to struggle to get by in this land of plenty. All of us: rural folks, city folks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, blacks, middle class, working class, and working poor.

I'm behind him all the way. Please join me.

Bernie Sanders for President!