It’s Friday November 8th! Do you know where your podcast is? On this day in history back in 1895, German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen became the first person to observe X-rays. X-rays are electromagnetic energy waves that act like light rays, but at wavelengths almost 1,000 times shorter. Upon their discovery, X-rays allowed doctors to see inside the human body for the first time without surgery. We here at Upside Downtrodden feel a special kinship with X-rays. We, too, possess the ability to see through humans. Read more
President Obama, Senator Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi pulled off an epic victory for the American people this week when they held strong against the Tea Party’s best efforts to sabotage our government. After fifteen long days of the government shutdown, it was the strong-minded determination of our Democratic leadership that caused House Republicans to blink. The take-away is simple: good wins out in the end.
Undoubtedly, the Tea party will try to regroup and spin the narrative in their favor, but when the January and February due dates approach to revisit the budget and debt ceiling my bet is on bipartisan communication averting anymore drama. Polling indicates most American voters hate what the Tea Party did. Career politicians like GOP Rep. Herrera Beutler are finding their way to the middle, and hard core Tea Party leaders will be booking tickets home in 2014. When the American people make up their minds on something, it takes decades to change it, and they have now decided good governance makes their lives better. Read more
Last year, I wrote a column extolling the virtues of being a member of a minority political viewpoint on campus. Today, I write a companion column delineating the detriments that arise when campus discussion is dominated by the liberal viewpoint. And it is my claim that, paradoxically, those harmed above all by this status quo are liberal students.
The negative effects are bountiful. Often discussed is the fact that disenfranchised perspectives on specific issues go unheard. This is true. Duke University's Chronicle published a story last semester reporting on how students opposing same-sex marriage remain, almost without exception, silent. The same in my experience could be said for pro-life, anti-affirmative action and pro-Second Amendment arguments. This political climate robs students of vital preparation for rebutting arguments with which they disagree. From a sheer standpoint of teaching argumentation, you cannot learn to effectively debate what you almost never hear. As evidence, look no further than the proclivity of many anonymous commenters to resort to ad hominem attacks when confronted with a conservative Chronicle column. Read more
The UN General Assembly meetings this week offer President Obama a chance to capitalize on recent diplomatic developments with Syria and to extend a hand to new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the hopes of launching renewed negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. In an op-ed in the Washington Post last week, Rouhani urged other leaders “to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.” It is critical for Obama to show that his administration is willing to answer Iranian concessions with some relief of sanctions that Rouhani can bring to the Iranian people.
Iran is Ready for Talks
A prominent adviser to the Iranian leadership, Amir Mohebbian, explains that Iran’s leaders see the next six months represent the best opportunity to reach an agreement, before campaigning for parliamentary elections begins in March. This is a window the US cannot afford to miss. It is time for the US to offer a reasonable deal that would signal to the Iranian people that the West is willing to work towards a larger agreement. Read more
The world weeps for Syria. To the growing list of atrocious statistics achieved during the Syrian Civil War, we may now add the 100,000th death. While the West twiddles its thumbs, weighing its fear of being embroiled in a prolonged conflict against some moral imperative to intervene, Bashar al-Assad and his regime continue to pass bloody milestones.
When your neighbors are taken prisoner or murdered and your schoolmates are tortured at the whims of the regime, it's hard to sit by… so many Syrians are not. But the rebels who wage war on Assad have also committed violent acts in their fight against the government that, when viewed in isolation, may be considered extreme and even cruel. And yet we do not view them in isolation. Many of us intuitively consider the rebels’ use of violence to be justified in light of the violence committed by the other side. So, the argument might go, it is only appropriate to judge the cruelty of the rebels’ actions in the context of the greater battle and in reference to the violence that Assad is currently using – violence justified in virtue of reciprocity, what I call "reactive" violence. Read more
The Obama Team wanted to start bombing Syria with an international force and global mandate, until our allies around the world said, No Thanks.
So the President pushed for America to act alone, creating a rare moment of bipartisan unity as Congress said, Slow Down…Not Yet.
But we were told bombs were still the only choice until John Kerry mentioned a diplomatic option: to which the Syrian regime has so far said: OK.
The President had to edit his previously scheduled speech. Now let's hope he interrupts his previously scheduled war.
The Syria crisis deserves international attention and action more effective than a go-it-alone bombing campaign.
Let's mark September 11th by seeking diplomacy and peace, praying that we can end war with an alternative to war.
Remember, reflect, rendezvous and rejuvenate as we chat peace and primaries over a pint or two at your local progressive social club.
DRINKING LIBERALLY Find - or start - a chapter near you.
Michael Stinnett - 9/03/2013: Legal rulings such as Citizens United and lax campaign financing laws have undermined the democratic process allowing wealthy donors to buy elections; so-called Super PACs are a pernicious influence on society and should be abolished. A Super PAC, or independent expenditure-only committee, “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis – the Super PAC's choice – as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates” (Super PACs). The recent ruling protects political spending by corporations in candidate elections, citing the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. In justifying the ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that “'If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech'” (The New York Times). Read more
The subject of Father Scott's homily on Sunday was "tunnel vision," something our local parish priest knows a lot about since it was not until he was in his twenties and well out of high school that Father Scott finally got his driver's license. "Tunnel vision," said the state trooper who flunked him. "Stop focusing on the straight lines in front of you and see everything around you."
But it wasn't to whine about being the only kid in his senior class who still rode a bike to school that Father Scott brought up the subject of "tunnel vision." Instead, it was as a prod to urge the rest of us to stop fixating on the bright lines defining our own narrow prejudices, or tribes, or self-imposed prisons so that we might see the larger world around us.
That is because, as Father Scott explained, "God colors outside the lines."
Mine is a parish, as I have mentioned before, that lies on the outskirts (and mostly under the radar screen) of the larger Boston Archdiocese. It's a town that is predominantly Jewish but which has a protestant church on three of the town square's four corners and also a mosque all our own. Read more
With the talks already ongoing to try and avert a government shutdown in the face of another debt ceiling crisis, I have decided to look at the broader question of whether it is genuinely possible to have an actual dialogue, on any subject, given the current political atmosphere. The first item in this conversation is to determine what dialogue actually is. Despite many different definitions that come to mind, and a lot of searching, I have happened upon a quote that seems to make the most sense. In the book On Heaven and Earth then Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, in his introduction has this to say on the idea of dialogue:
"Dialogue is born of a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals. Dialogue entails a warm reception and not a preemptive condemnation. To dialogue, one must know how to lower the defenses, to open the door to one's home and to offer warmth. Read more
I spent a little time in California over the summer. It had been awhile. I remember going there as a kid and being so impressed. It seems that the days when everyone in the nation looked up to California, that magical land filled with perfect weather, sandy beaches, gorgeous women, and glamorous movie stars, have gone the way of the VCR and the cassette deck.
The first condition that I noticed was that the check stations, that used to manned by friendly, professional, state officials, who welcomed you to California and asked if you were bringing fruits or vegetables to or from that state, now look like the ruined shacks from Fallout 3. I was waiting to be attacked by "Mole-Rats".
Oh, and the rest areas are all closed so don't bother trying. You have no choice but to pee at truck stop as you're paying $6.02 a gallon for gas. Read more
If one paid attention to MSNBC, Think Progress, or the Daily Kos, and according to the numbers, approximately one does; one would believe that a hurricane of white supremacy is ripping this country to pieces. A vast army of over-weight, red-neck, white men, in Confederate Flag adorned 4-wheel drive trucks are racing around the country side raping, lynching and generally tormenting innocent and terrified minorities.
Dedicated liberals spend their days scouring the internet for video of some poor white slob who is running for city council and happens to be caught on camera giving a poorly worded speech. Hand that video to some leftist jerk at Think Progress and you have recipe for “twisted overt racism”.
What these dedicated liberals don’t want to notice is that day after day, Americans from all races, backgrounds, religions, and creeds work together and get along astonishingly well. People go to restaurants, concerts, sporting events and school functions without a racist incident. Read more
I recall vividly in the summer of 1987 when Court of Appeals Judge Robert Bork was before the Senate Judiciary Committee going through the ordeal of a hearing on his nomination to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I had been studying the history of the Supreme Court for a couple of years at that point, and was very interested in seeing this process play out. By the end of it, I was sorely disappointed, and a little frustrated at the antics of the Senators, both on and off the Committee. Since then, I have been more and more disillusioned about the process of nominating, and confirming, an individual to the Supreme Court. While this disillusionment applies equally well to lower Federal courts, I am focusing my attention on the Supreme Court. Read more
Ok. Snowden is on the run.
“It’s espionage!” “He’s a traitor!!”.
Yeegads. All for telling us that our government is listening to us and wants to listen to the globe.
“We have warrants!” shouts Obama,
And then in a whisper “from that secret FISA Court” that nobody knows anything about because it’s a secret. National security you know.
Google moved today for a declaratory judgement in Federal Court (the REAL court!) to be allowed to disclose the warrants it received from the NSA through the FISA Court (not to be taken as an admission that there are any warrants of course - they are secret), arguing that it’s business has been irreparably damaged.
Now suppose the security state can’t catch Snowden? Suppose he gets asylum? How would you feel if Obama put him on the drone list over a Tuesday afternoon coffee at the White House?
Nah. Of course he wouldn’t. Would he? He can. Maybe after getting a secret warrant from FISA Court so it’s all nice and legal. Read more
Its Wednesday May 8th! Do you know where your Podcast is? On this day in history back in 1858 John Brown held a secret anti-slavery convention in Canada where he and around 50 like-minded individuals adopted an anti slavery constitution. Brown is one of the most polarizing figures of the chaotic period leading up to the civil war. Hated by supporters of the southern way of exploiting human beings for their own personal gain and glory - I mean advocates of states’ rights; revered by the growing population of civil rights warriors who believed that change would not come without a fight; shunned and shamed by peace loving, meek abolitionists who preferred to sing songs, publish articles, and peacefully assemble to end slavery. Read more
Last week was a tough week. Moments after the marathon bombings, first responders and ordinary citizens rushed in to provide help to the injured, not knowing whether or not they were putting their own lives at risk.
After those exemplary moments, the week went down hill as the nation went into freak-out mode. Pundits, politicians, news outlets and self-appointed sleuths on the internet heaped disgrace on themselves.
The talking heads went on interminably as if in filibuster; the news outlets got the basic facts wrong and the internet geeks identified an innocent guy as a suspect while never identifying the actual suspects. A New York tabloid ran a picture of the innocent guy on the front page. Wonder how his family feels.
Right wing media immediately picked on a “Saudi national” as a suspect (he apparently had nothing to do with Boston) and accused the “gummit” of suppressing the “story”.
We prayed that the bombers were “foreign” rather than white-bread Americans - turned out they were a little of both.
All the powers that be were doing their level best to shade the story for short term advantage, either in the ratings or politically. Read more