Monthly Archives: August 2012

RNC Insults Native Americans

RNC official Pat Rogers is either a callous, racist buffoon, or he is intentionally trying to sabotage the Republican Party. This month, Rogers sent out an email blasting Governor Susana Martinez for meeting with Native American leaders, saying that her Republican opponent in the 2010 election, Allen Weh, “would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.” He also said that, “This state is going to Hell.” According to an August 27 article, a spokesman for the RNC stated that, while Rogers’ comments were offensive, his apology should be considered sufficient, and he will keep his job. I suppose we should not be too surprised, since after opposing the integration of his fraternity in college, getting involved with two different white supremacist groups, lionizing Jefferson Davis at every turn, and publicly pining for an America where segregationist Strom Thurmond had gotten elected president, Trent Lott had to resign as Senator Majority Leader but got to be Senate Minority Whip a few years later. Not that the Democratic Party is perfect on this score either. The Democratic Party still has Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, which I like to call “Dead Slave Master Appreciation Day,” and are insulting to both blacks and Native Americans. And who can forget how they fawned over Robert Byrd? However, I feel that I cannot let slide the RNC’s decision not to punish Rogers for his asinine, bigoted statement. The treatment of Native Americans is one of the most gruesome aspects of the United States’ history. White settlers poured in, first from Europe to the United States, then from the East to the West, depleting the resources that Native Americans needed to survive and eventually overcoming them in war. As the 1800s drew to a close, and the “Indian Wars” ended, the next phase of persecution began. Tribes were stripped of their sovereignty, forced to attend missionary schools with the goal of destroying their religion and culture, and kept in poverty. To this day, most Native Americans live on reservations that are basically government slums, and people frequently put all or most of the blame on Native Americans themselves for these problems or argue that the main cause is Native Americans being “coddled.” The Battle of Little Bighorn, at which George Armstrong Custer was killed, was fought because white settlers were encroaching on Native American land out West. This land, by the way, had been recognized as the property of indigenous people by federal treaty. The Native Americans who killed Custer and his men were defending their homeland. The essence of what Pat Rogers said recently was that Native Americans do not have a right to protect their homeland. I want to highlight the racism specifically against Native Americans that exists in the conservative movement. There are no quotes here from fringe figures like David Duke. With quotes that have an air of historicity to them, I will explain why they are inaccurate, wrong, and downright racist.

“So why did European attitudes toward the Indian, initially so favorable, subsequently change? Kirkpatrick Sale, Stephen Greenblatt, and others offer no explanation for the altered European perception. But the reason given by the explorers themselves is that Columbus and those who followed him came into sudden, unexpected, and gruesome contact with the customary practices of some other Indian tribes. While the first Indians that Columbus encountered were hospitable and friendly, other tribes enjoyed fully justified reputations for brutality and inhumanity. On his second voyage Columbus was horrified to discover that a number of the sailors he left behind had been killed and possibly eaten by the cannibalistic Arawaks.”-Dinesh D’Souza

Truth: In fact, the Arawaks were a remarkably peaceful tribe. Legitimate historical sources show that Columbus was perfectly aware that the Spaniards had been killed due to their cruelty toward the Arawaks. D’Souza skips this part of the story and makes the killing sound unprovoked.

“In fact, a lot of the initial contacts between European settlers and Indians in the East — we’re required not to know this now – consisted of completely unprovoked attacks by the Indians.”—Ann Coulter

Truth: Ann Coulter’s definition of “unprovoked” is very shaky. In fact, the early clashes tended to be a result of white settlers’ encroachment on Native American land. While Native Americans may have been the first to respond violently in these cases, this violence was a basic defense mechanism against the threat of having their resources and land depleted—which is exactly what ended up happening.

“There is so much distortion, so many lies, so many untruths taught to our innocent young skulls full of mush throughout American history about Thanksgiving and one of the things that has been taught is that the arrival of the white man, I don’t know if it was the Pilgrims or whoever came later, Christopher Columbus even prior to that, and what happened was that the Native Americans were basically slaughtered. They were wiped out. We came in here, we basically took what wasn’t ours and it was devastation out there. But I ask if we could run the numbers on this. Does anybody know the total number of Native Americans killed as a result of the arrival of the white man? When we get that number we need to compare it to the number of tobacco deaths since the white man arrived in this country because it was the Native Americans who figured out what to do with tobacco.”—Rush Limbaugh

“But the revisionists have done their work. No film today would dare paint Indians as backward, capricious, or cruel.”—Pat Buchanan, on how “cultural elites” are supposedly ruining America.

Note: Buchanan has also attacked Native Americans who want to cease honoring Andrew Jackson and George Custer.

“And the Europeans proved superior in battle, taking possession of contested lands through right of conquest. So in all respects, Europeans gained rightful and legal sovereign control of American soil.

But another factor has rarely been discussed, and that is the moral factor.

In the ancient tradition of the Hebrews, God made it clear to Abraham that the land of Canaan was promised to his descendants. But he told Abraham the transfer of land to his heirs could not happen for 400 years, for one simple reason: “[T]he iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Gen. 15:16).

The Amorites, or Canaanite peoples, practiced one moral abomination after another, whether it was incest, adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality, bestiality or child sacrifice, and God finally said “Enough!”

By the time he brought the nascent nation of Israel to the borders of the land flowing with milk and honey, he had already been patient with the native tribes for 400 years, waiting for them to come to the place of repentance for their socially and spiritually degrading practices.

His patience was not rewarded, and finally the day came when the sin had reached its full measure. The slop bucket was full, and it was time to empty it out. Israel under Joshua was God’s custodian to empty the bucket and start over.

The native American tribes at the time of the European settlement and founding of the United States were, virtually without exception, steeped in the basest forms of superstition, had been guilty of savagery in warfare for hundreds of years, and practiced the most debased forms of sexuality.

One of the complaints listed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence was that King George “has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

The Lewis and Clark journals record the constant warfare between the nomadic Indian tribes on the frontier, and the implacable hostility of the Sioux Indians in particular.

The journals record the morally abhorrent practice of many native American chiefs, who offered their own wives to the Corps of Discovery for their twisted sexual pleasure. (Regrettably, many members of the Corps, Lewis and Clark excepted, took advantage of these offers and contracted numerous and debilitating sexually transmitted diseases as a result.)”—Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association

Truth: Fischer’s logic, as it almost always is, is very bizzare. How can one paint Native Americans as more immoral than whites if, by Fischer’s own account, many white settlers accepted the offer to have sexual intercourse with the wives of Native American chiefs? Would it not be more accurate to view this story as indicate of a general, sexist, objectifying attitude toward women in early America?

Bonus, Retro Quote: “Maybe we should not have humored them [Native Americans] in that kind of primitive life-style. You’d be surprised. Some of them became very wealthy, because some of those reservations were overlaying great pools of oil. I don’t know what their complaint might be.”—Ronald Reagan

By allowing Pat Rogers to keep his job, the RNC has effectively said that racism against Native Americans is really not such a big deal. This outrage cannot stand. We must all face up to what has been and continues to be done to Native Americans and, rather than blaming, stigmatizing, and insulting them, we must support real reform.

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The Military Budget Must Be Cut

With the United States national debt approaching 16 trillion dollars, debt reduction has been a major issue in President Obama’s administration. Since he entered office, he has been clashing with Republicans over how to cut the national debt, with Obama typically favoring higher taxes for the rich and reduced military spending and Republicans typically favoring reduced spending in entitlement and other domestic economic programs. Now, major spending cuts and tax increases are set to take effect at the beginning of 2013, unless Congress can agree on another budget. One of the most controversial aspects of this debt reduction plan involves $500 billion dollar, across the board defense cuts. Many people, especially conservatives, are not surprisingly criticizing these proposed cuts. Well, in my view, these critics are partly right and partly wrong. Generally speaking, mechanical, automatic, across the board cuts are ill advised. Budget cuts need to be well thought out, concentrated, and methodical. Hence, budget cuts effecting body armor and veterans’ benefits should be opposed. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the GOP is not in the best position to criticize liberals for failing our veterans. In a culture where we’ve been trained to believe that honoring our soldiers and veterans means supporting every war, standing for and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and criminalizing flag desecration, conservative politicians come off looking very good. But when we look at the far more pertinent issue of providing proper care and benefits for soldiers and veterans, Republicans often fall short. In 2006, Disabled American Veterans gave a very revealing rating to members of the House and Senate. The three politicians to get the lowest ratings, 20%, were Larry Craig, Mike Crapo, and John McCain, all Republicans. Senators Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama got ratings of 80%, while Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi scored 100%. Still, across the board cuts are wrong. We ought not to balance the budget on the backs of those who have and do serve in the military. However, much of our massive military spending involves amassing unnecessary weapons and other expenditures that do not involve the well being of our troops. Certainly, all of the money we have spent on Afghanistan was not beneficial to the U.S. military. In fact, in some of the areas where spending is important—veterans’ health care, body armor for soldiers—it would not have been necessary to spend as much if we had not started an unnecessary war in Afghanistan. By the rationale we used to go to war in Afghanistan—that the nation was working with Osama bin Laden—we would have had to go to war with ourselves, since the United States had at one time allied itself with bin Laden. No compelling evidence has ever been put forward that the Afghan government played any role in 9/11. In fact, 9/11 was largely the result of the United States angering bin Laden by intervening in the first Gulf War. And why, pray tell, did we enter that little quagmire? Was it to preserve freedom in Kuwait? Kuwait, the country where homosexuality between consenting adults can result in seven years in prison and where, at the time of the war, women were not permitted to vote? Not hardly. The reason we intervened in Kuwait, setting off a series of chain events that led to 9/11 and the disastrous 21st century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was to protect the oil supply. This brings me to my next point. The so-called “defense budget” is no such thing. The United States leads the world in military spending. According to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, we also spend more on military matters than all the next fourteen biggest spending countries combined. Are we really so hated and have such deadly enemies that we have to such a staggering amount in this area? Defenders of massive military spending will claim that these expenditures are a necessity as a result of Islamic terrorists. This brings to mind an old Calvin and Hobbes strip. The strip begins with Calvin frantically running by and exclaiming to Hobbes, “Run for your life, there’s a million angry hornets coming! They’re insane with rage! They’ll sting anything in their path!” Hobbes, somewhat perplexed, asks, “What are they mad about?” Calvin replies, “I’ve been throwing rocks at their nest all morning.” The strip ends with Calvin hanging in a tree by his underwear and complaining, “A real friend wouldn’t take their side!” While I do not want to see the United States in a similar position to Calvin in the last panel, I think that the strip provides a great analogy. The United States metaphorically throws rocks at the hornet’s nest by needlessly intervening militarily in wars and sending troops into countries that have not attacked us. Then the government claims that the public must pay more money for a bigger defense budget to guard against the threat created by these reckless foreign policy decisions. In my view, out of control military spending became a constant in American politics during World War II. It had certainly been a problem in World War I, but it had tapered off after the war ended. One might have expected it to taper off again once World War II ended, but the United States shifted its attention to the Soviet Union. Like most of our enemies during after World War II, the Soviet Union had a terrible human rights record (about as bad as ours in the 1940s-1950s) but did not pose a direct threat to the United States. The Soviet Union had lost a much larger percentage of its population to the war than the United States had and, unlike the United States, had not experienced a massive wartime economic boom. Yet the United States justified massive military spending by pointing to the alleged threat posed by the Soviet Union. The United States military budget does not look like a defense budget. It looks like the budget of a country that wants to be ready to take over the world. This has to change, unless we want the national debt to hit the quadrillion mark.

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The Era that Never Existed

“Gerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”—President Lyndon Johnson on House Minority Leader Gerald Ford.

As our election gets underway, we can expect that one party will accuse President Obama of being the Socialist Satan, while the other party will accuse Mitt Romney of being Jeff Skilling with good hair and Paul Ryan of scheming to wheel ninety year olds off of cliffs. We can also expect that some people will express a wish to return to the days when, supposedly, politicians were more civil. Yet whatever one thinks of heated rhetoric, the evidence suggests that the idea of politicians in previous eras being more civil is a myth. If we go all the way back to 1804, we can look at the conflict between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Two men with very different visions for America, Burr and Hamilton clashed both politically and personally. By 1804, Aaron Burr was Vice President of the United States, and their enmity showed no signs of subsiding. They decided to settle things by dueling with pistols. The end result was that Vice President Burr killed former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Amazingly, while he fled after killing Hamilton, Burr was eventually able to finish his term as vice president. Remember how much negative attention Dick Cheney got for shooting someone accidentally and non-fatally? Imagine what would have happened in the 21st century if Cheney had deliberately killed someone with a gun. Burr’s case is not an isolated one. By the 1850s, tensions over slavery had essentially reached the breaking point. In 1856, Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA), one of the few abolitionists in Congress, delivered a fiery antislavery speech. The two main politicians targeted in the speech were proslavery Democratic Senators Andrew Butler of South Carolina and Stephen Douglas of Illinois. The crimes against humanity by Butler and Douglas had certainly made them deserving of personal attack, but Sumner went too far by mocking Butler’s speech impediment and Douglas’ short, plump frame. Sumner also made statements that were justified but created great controversy. He said of Butler, “The senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight — I mean the harlot, slavery. For her his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this senator.” Butler’s nephew, Representative Preston Brooks (D-SC), was incensed. The South Carolina Congressman avoided challenging Sumner to a duel or, say, approaching him in the hallway and having a knockdown, drag out fight. Instead, Brooks approached Sumner while the Massachusetts Senator was at his desk and began hitting him in the head with a gold-headed cane. Meanwhile Brooks’ fellow South Carolina Congressman, Laurence Keitt, brandished a gun in an attempt to prevent anyone from intervening. Brooks was not removed from Congress for his actions. Keitt did lose his seat but was elected back. Approximately twenty months after serving as Brooks’ enforcer, Keitt was involved in another altercation. In a late-night session of the House of Represenatives, Congressman Galusha Grow (R-PA) went to the Democratic side of the aisle to talk with some Northern Democrats. Keitt was so enraged that he called Grow “a Black Republican puppy” and demanded that the Pennsylvania Congressman go back to the Republican side of the aisle. Grow effectively called Keitt a slave driver and said that the South Carolina Congressman could not tell him what to do. From there, the House descended into chaos. At least fifty Representatives began taking part a brawl. The fighting ended when John F. Potter (R-WI) tried to pull the hair of William Barksdale (D-MS) and inadvertently pulled off Barksdale’s wig. The other members of Congress were reduced to laughter. After the Civil War, aggression in politics continued. In the 1880s, New York state legislator “Big John” MacManus expressed the very odd desire to toss a fellow legislator in a blanket. The fellow legislator, who happened to be Theodore Roosevelt, approached MacManus and proclaimed, “By God! I hear you are going to toss me in a blanket. By God! If you try anything like that, I’ll kick you, I’ll bite you, I’ll kick you in the balls. I’ll do anything to you — you’d better leave me alone.” In 1949, Congressman John Rankin (D-MS) used the n word multiple times in a debate with liberal, pro civil rights Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY). Congressman Vito Marcantonio of New York, the only member of the American Labor Party in Congress at the time, was furious at Rankin’s use of a racial slur and requested to Speaker John Rayburn (D-TX) that the slur be removed from the record. Apparently trying to bail Rankin out of trouble, Rayburn claimed that the Mississippi Democrat had said “Negro.” Rankin protested that he had indeed used the n word and boasted that he had always used it and would continue to do so. These stories, along with the LBJ quote at the top must make it apparent that aggression and incivility have been part of politics for as long as politics have existed.

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Don’t Compare Mitt Romney and Thomas Dewey

I happened to read an article in USA Today yesterday comparing Thomas Dewey, the Republican Party’s 1948 presidential nominee, to Mitt Romney. The gist of the article seemed to be that Romney ran the risk of losing the election just like Dewey did. For those who have not read about the 1948 presidential election, I will provide a brief recap. At the fairly young age of forty-six, Dewey became the Republican Party nominee for the second time. Having lost four years prior in an aggressive campaign against highly popular incumbent, Franklin Roosevelt, Dewey became convinced that he was guaranteed to beat the less popular Truman as long as he avoided making any big mistakes. Thus, he tried to avoid taking many firm positions on issues during the election. A newspaper editor in Louisville remarked that, “No presidential candidate in the future will be so inept that four of his major speeches can be boiled down to these historic four sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead.” Dewey played a role in putting forth the Republican Party platform, which included a number of leftist political stances. The platform supported government health programs, continuation and expansion of Social Security, and the right of workers to collective bargaining. Statements on racial issues included, “Constant and effective insistence on the personal dignity of the individual, and his right to complete justice without regard to race, creed or color, is a fundamental American principle,” as well as opposition to the poll tax and support for federal workplace protection and anti-lynching laws. Since the Republicans who controlled Congress tended to be more conservative than Dewey and other GOP members who would later be termed “Rockefeller Republicans,” Truman took the opportunity to castigate said Congressional Republicans for failing to pass their own party’s legislation. In the end, Truman shocked the nation by managing to win the election and ended up being photographed while happily holding a newspaper with the incorrect and infamous headline, Dewey Defeats Truman. I can understand why people see similarities between Dewey and Romney. Both men were Michigan natives who became governors in the Northeast and beat more conservative opponents in the primaries. Both men were also perceived as cold and stuck up. However, I think that it is hugely insulting to Thomas Dewey to compare him to Mitt Romney. Romney’s civil rights policies are terrible. He favors a constitutional amendment to deny gay people the right to marry and opposes a federal law to prohibit discrimination in the workplace. I have already discussed Dewey’s support for a liberal Republican Party platform on civil rights. When running in the 1939 New York gubernatorial election, Dewey stated that he would rather lose the election than pander to racist voters. As governor, he signed the first state law in the history of the United States to ban workplace discrimination on account of race. In the 1944 presidential election, when he was much more willing to publicly give his views on controversial subjects, Dewey called for extending New York’s anti-discrimination law to the whole country and ending segregation in the military. He also supported addressing the exclusion of African Americans from Social Security rolls by extending benefits to cover domestic servants and farmers, who made up half the country’s black work force in 1944. I find it quite likely that, had Dewey been elected president, his record on equal rights could have surpassed any president who came before him. Of course, Harry Truman was stronger on civil rights than any president since at least Benjamin Harrison. However, his civil rights record was not without serious warts. His executive order to desegregate the military was admirable, and I wish that President Obama had, in addition to working to pass legislation ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” issued an executive order preventing gay soldiers from being discharged. However, it must be noted that Harry Truman waited 1201 days into his presidency before issuing said executive order. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ended 973 days into Barack Obama’s presidency. So it took Barack Obama significantly less time to pass a bill allowing gay people to serve openly in the military than it took for Harry Truman to issue an executive order ending racial segregation in the military! Throughout his adult life, Truman privately used the n word to refer to African Americans. In his later years, the former president criticized the civil disobedience of civil rights activists, saying that they had not been spanked enough as children and saying that Southern police officers should be given paddles to hit them with. Equally disturbing, he stated that interracial marriage was a sin and criticized both the white Northern abolitionists of the past and the white Northerners participating in the Civil Rights Movement as outside agitators who caused trouble. Thus, I would argue that if one compares their civil rights records, Dewey indeed defeats Truman. Dewey can also be admired for his stance in favor of civil liberties. By the time he ran for president in 1948, the Cold War had begun and with it an anti-Communist craze. Dewey courageously opposed outlawing the Communist Party. We will never know for sure what a Dewey presidency would have been like. But I can all but guarantee it would have been far superior to a Romney administration.

Postscript: Has anyone besides me noticed that people with the last name “Dewey” tend to be champions of racial equality and free speech? John Dewey, better known for his contributions to education, helped found the NAACP and the American Federation of Negro College Students and was also a member of the ACLU.

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Elephants, Paul Ryan, and Funny Faces

Before discussing Paul Ryan, I want to mention that today is World Elephant Day. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to check out the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. One of the purposes of this group is to care of orphaned elephants and eventually reintroduce them into the wild. It also has an “Adopt an Elephant Orphan” program, whereby a person can sponsor an orphaned elephant calf. I myself received a certificate of adoption for a calf named Naipoki as a Christmas gift from my parents. I was thrilled and have since taken pride in being a part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Remember, elephants really are a lot like massive, leathery humans. Now, the main point of my article is Mitt Romney’s choice of a running mate. Traditionally, a vice presidential candidate is frequently chosen to balance the ticket. John McCain was far from a social liberal but had been pro-choice, against a Federal Marriage Amendment, and called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell the right-wing equivalents of Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton. Hence, McCain selected a conservative Christian running mate. Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were both New Englanders and chose Southerners as running mates. While Bill Clinton was a young, homophobic, middle of the road Southern Baptist from Arkansas, and Al Gore was a young, homophobic, middle of the road Southern Baptist from Tennessee, the selection of Gore was still a form of ticket balancing. Clinton had a weakness for women who were not his wife, while Gore looked to be in a stable, monogamous marriage at the time. Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, in my view, mainly to compensate for his economic policy. Romney is in the somewhat strange position of being criticized both for being a filthy rich corporate executive who allegedly mistreated his employees and for signing a law that required people to buy health insurance. Then again, Bain Capital has been the recipient of taxpayer money, so I guess both of these issues come down to Romney favoring too much government involvement in the economy. Make no mistake about it. Mitt Romney’s positions on issues like abortion and gay rights were sometimes less than conservative in the 1990s. However, Romney has backpedalled a lot on these issues since then. He supports allowing gays in the military but favored “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until after it was repealed. He supports gay adoption, but he favors DOMA and wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. He disagrees with the Boy Scouts of America’s policy on gay scout leaders, but he also opposes a federal law making it illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. So if you are bigoted towards gay people, there is plenty to admire about Mitt Romney. And if you are pro-life, you can take comfort in the fact that Romney has reversed his previously liberal position on abortion. With economics on the other hand, it would be hard to blame a fiscal conservative for thinking that Mitt Romney’s presidency would be Obama Administration, Version 2. After all, during his time as governor, Mitt Romney signed a law that requires people to buy health care whether they want it or not. So what has Mitt Romney done about this? Has he backpedalled like he did on abortion and gay rights? Not really. He has actually defended his decision to sign the law, refusing to say that it was a mistake. This prevents him from looking like a flip flopper, but it also puts him in no position to criticize “ObamaCare.” Paul Ryan, on the other hand, is establishing a reputation for being a hardcore fiscal conservative. He has written a book detailing his plans for reforming the budget. Among his proposals are privatizing Medicare and Social Security. He has also, in the past, voiced his admiration for Ayn Rand’s radical free market ideology, though probably not for her Atheism and support for legalization of abortion and drugs. Ryan, in effect, seems designed to attract fiscally conservative voters. He may also help Romney win Wisconsin. While Wisconsin is probably one of the top 10 least racist states and has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, Democratic presidential candidates sometimes win the state by very narrow margins. The presence of a Wisconsin native on the ticket may put the Badger State in Romney’s column. What do I think about Paul Ryan? Well, I should point out that my opinion is not of much consequence, since I am a staunch Obama supporter and am hence not one of the people that Ryan is supposed to appeal to. But to the point, I actually like a lot of Ryan’s fiscal policies. I may not agree with every single one of his proposed budget cuts, but the fact of the matter is that our national debt and deficit must be reduced, at least partly by reducing federal spending. Ryan’s position on national health care is about like mine: against it under Obama and against it under Romney. While taking care of the elderly is essential, replacing government Medicare with a voucher system is something that I think should be explored as a possibility. Interestingly, though, there is at least one fiscal issue where Mitt Romney and I take a conservative position and Ryan takes a liberal one. Ryan, who represents a district where the auto industry is important economically, voted for the auto industry bailout in 2008. I guess it goes to show that there are no fiscal conservatives when it comes to spending money on constituents. The bottom line, though, is that I do not endorse or vote for candidates based primarily on economics. As long as a nation denies equal rights to people based on immutable traits like race or sexual orientation, that nation cannot be truly great or truly free. Furthermore, while issues like health care are complex, and people on both sides can have good arguments, the equality of all people regardless of immutable traits is a cut and dry, black and white moral issue. Therefore, equality for all people regardless of immutable traits is the political issue most important to me and the issue that I vote for candidates based on. I did some research on Paul’s Ryan’s views on gay rights, and my reaction was about like Faith Hill’s in this picture.

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Paul Ryan’s only pro-gay rights stance that I am aware of is that he favors the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He is not only against gay marriage, he is also in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He also opposed an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Ryan is not unusually homophobic for a Republican, and economic issues are his priority, but he is still extremely bigoted. Let’s face it, average for a Republican is still really homophobic. This is actually the first time in U.S. history that both the presidential and vice presidential candidates of a party support an anti-gay marriage amendment. In 2004, Cheney opposed an anti-gay marriage amendment. In 2008, John McCain, as much as he panders to homophobic people, opposed an anti-gay marriage amendment. However, this gay bashing will be a serious turn off for gay voters, Northeastern voters, and voters in the 18-35 age range. I believe that the Romney-Ryan ticket will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this election. I’m as unimpressed with their chances of winning as McKayla Maroney in this photo.

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While the gay bashing turns me off and will probably turn many other people off, I would be remiss if I did not discuss some other problems Romney may have with conservative voters, problems that are not likely to be helped by Ryan’s presence on the ticket. First of all, a big issue has been made about whether or not conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants will vote for a Mormon. While someone like Mike Huckabee might have helped assuaged such people, a Roman Catholic vice presidential candidate is less likely to. Google “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” and you’ll see that a lot of conservative Protestants take a pretty dim view of the Roman Catholic Church. Second, it will be interesting to see how Southern Republicans react to the Romney-Ryan ticket. Romney did quite poorly in primaries in the Deep South, and he has now picked a running mate from a very Northern state. I hope that, if and when Romney loses the election, the Republican Party will reconsider the deadly course it has been on since the 1960s.

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How Reality T.V. Can Court Trouble

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about the Palin family’s homophobia, in particular that of Bristol Palin, as well as her lousy parenting. It now seems that Levi Johnston, Bristol’s ex boyfriend and the father of Tripp, is suing for half or full custody of his son. Reportedly, his decision was influenced by the temper tantrum he saw Tripp throw on Bristol Palin’s reality show, Life’s a Tripp. According to TMZ.com, Levi is “disgusted” by what he saw. He also said that Tripp is on a “downward spiral” and is receiving “no real parenting” and that he “will do whatever it takes to make sure he [Tripp] is raised the right way.” Let’s face it: choosing whether Tripp should be parented by Bristol Palin or Levi Johnston is like choosing between being parented by Joan Crawford and Joe Jackson. However, this story prompted me to write a blog post about how reality television can actually hurt someone in the courtroom. Reality television, even more so than Facebook, gives other people a window into someone’s personal life. It paints a detailed picture of someone and their various traits, good or bad. And in the process, it may make certain things a matter of public record that will later come up in a court case. Unlike regular television or film, it is presented as completely real. If Anthony Hopkins were accused of murdering and cannibalizing somebody, it would be unfair and unreasonable to use the Hannibal Lecter movies as evidence. Yet reality T.V. is a whole different ballgame. If this were a child custody battle involving two ordinary people, it would probably be the mother’s word against the father’s. The father would claim that the child in the care of the mother was throwing temper tantrums, using profanity or even homophobic slurs, and telling relatives, “I hate you.” The mother could then call the father a liar, and it might be difficult for the court to determine who was telling the truth. Not so with Bristol and Levi. Bristol’s reality show may well provide Levi with custody of Tripp on a silver platter. Not only is there footage of Tripp acting very obnoxiously, but Bristol admits on camera that she is doing a terrible job of disciplining him. The episode could not portray Bristol’s parenting in a worse light if Levi’s lawyer scripted it. Now, Levi’s lawyer could ask the court to subpoena the footage to help his client’s case. Bristol would be in no position to claim privacy rights, since the footage has already been shown on T.V., with her consent. This would not be the first time that a reality show arguably hurt somebody in court. Almost exactly five years ago, Hulk Hogan’s son, “Nick Hogan” (real name Nick Bollea), crashed his very expensive, very fast car while intoxicated and speeding in a street race. In addition to destroying the car and causing it to hit a palm tree, the accident injured passenger John Graziano so badly that he is likely to require full-time care for the rest of his life. However, since he had broken at least three laws and been ticketed multiple times prior to the crash, Nick seemed poised for a world of hurt. Unfortunately for the “Hogan family” (again, actually named the Bolleas), at the time of the crash, they had their own reality show. The show, interestingly enough, was called Hogan Knows Best. I never watched the show, because I never watch reality T.V. period, except for animal documentaries. But I heard a lot about how, on the show, Nick had come off looking like less than the model teenager. Apparently, this must have been of some concern to Hulk and his lawyer, because the semi-retired wrestler publicly claimed that, despite what we had been told the entire time that the show had been running, Hogan Knows Best was actually scripted. And maybe it was. But you can say as many times as you want, after the court case starts, that your reality show was scripted. The fact remains, that a reality show is not like normal television, where we see credits with the words “screenplay written by . . . ” It is not even like professional wrestling, which almost everyone knows it is scripted. The very term, “reality T.V.,” implies that the audience is watching with the understanding that what they are seeing is real. I really have nothing against Hulk Hogan, and I actually praised him in an article I wrote a while back for a gay-affirming comment he made. But I use his case and Bristol’s to illustrate the fact that if you sign on to star in a reality T.V. show, you should probably try to avoid ever having to go to court.

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Steve King Thinks We’re Living in Ancient Rome

If an alien came to the United States and looked at our criminal codes, one of the first things they would wonder is why people who organize dogfighting and cockfighting rings often get more lenient sentences than people who sell drugs. Seriously, I could have poured myself a glass of milk and gotten a plate of cookies in the time that Michael Vick was in prison. Well, homophobe and anti-diversity stalwart, Congressman Pete King (R-IA) has recently expressed outrage—because he thinks our laws against dogfighting and cock fighting are too strict. According to Examiner.com, King was recently asked about his proposed “King Amendment” that would ban states from enacting regulations on animal abuse if local voters were not supportive. The Congressman stated, “When the legislation that passed in the farm bill that says that it’s a federal crime to watch animals fight or to induce someone else to watch an animal fight, but it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting, there’s something wrong with the priorities of people that think like that,” Keep in mind, King has also favored legalization of dogfighting and cockfighting. Now, I presume that what King was referring to in his quote when he talked about people fighting was MMA and boxing. Apparently, in his mind, these sports are equivalent to dogfighting and cockfighting, and since they are legal, torturing animals for entertainment should be as well. I do not think it takes rocket science to determine exactly why this quote is so asinine. The human equivalent of dogfighting and cockfighting died out long ago. That equivalent was the gladiatorial arena of ancient Rome. In that environment, humans were forced to fight, sometimes to the death. To the public, it was like a carnival spectacle—which really makes you question the idea that the current generation is the most violent ever, thanks to all those movies and video games and whatnot. But the days of legal gladiatorial fights are long gone. Nowadays, as King well knows, forcing people to fight each other for sport is a crime. Now, don’t get me wrong. MMA and boxing are violent, dangerous sports. Are they more dangerous than football? They certainly involve more graphic violence. Yet whether or not they are actually more dangerous is debatable, especially with MMA, which often involves grappling and has fewer aged retirees to examine for lasting injuries. Most importantly, unlike the gladiatorial games of old, boxers and mixed martial artists are not being forced to fight each other. They choose to do so, usually because they love the sport, want to make money, or both. Dogs and chickens in underground fighting rings, by contrast, have no choice. They are forced by humans to fight. Thus, trying to say that dogfighting and cockfighting are no worse than boxing and MMA or that banning the former but not the latter somehow indicates a misplaced set of priorities is ridiculous. In this day and age, it seems almost silly to debate whether or not animals feel pain, but since the Steve Kings of the world apparently believe that they do not, I feel the need to present conclusive evidence that animals do indeed feel pain. According to writer Pete Singer, “Nearly all the external signs that lead us to infer pain in other humans can be seen in other species, especially the species most closely related to us–the species of mammals and birds. The behavioral signs include writhing, facial contortions, moaning, yelping or other forms of calling, attempts to avoid the source of the pain, appearance of fear at the prospect of its repetition, and so on. In addition, we know that these animals have nervous systems very like ours, which respond physiologically like ours do when the animal is in circumstances in which we would feel pain: an initial rise of blood pressure, dilated pupils, perspiration, an increased pulse rate, and, if the stimulus continues, a fall in blood pressure. Although human beings have a more developed cerebral cortex than other animals, this part of the brain is concerned with thinking functions rather than with basic impulses, emotions, and feelings. These impulses, emotions, and feelings are located in the diencephalon, which is well developed in many other species of animals, especially mammals and birds. [emphasis mine.] We also know that the nervous systems of other animals were not artificially constructed–as a robot might be artificially constructed–to mimic the pain behavior of humans. The nervous systems of animals evolved as our own did, and in fact the evolutionary history of human beings and other animals, especially mammals, did not diverge until the central features of our nervous systems were already in existence. A capacity to feel pain obviously enhances a species’ prospects for survival, since it causes members of the species to avoid sources of injury. It is surely unreasonable to suppose that nervous systems that are virtually identical physiologically, have a common origin and a common evolutionary function, and result in similar forms of behavior in similar circumstances should actually operate in an entirely different manner on the level of subjective feelings. […] The overwhelming majority of scientists who have addressed themselves to this question agree.” I myself had a golden retriever for twelve years, and I can say from personal experience that dogs have feelings and emotions. Humans are uniquely capable of leaving the world a better place than it was when they came into it, but we also have a unique capacity for evil. While animals are certainly capable of good, they cannot comprehend morality. Therefore, we should not be surprised when elephants mourn the death of a member of their herd. Yet if a tiger mauls a person, we understand that the tiger is not evil, it is just being an animal. Humans, by contrast, all too often choose to do something evil, sometimes for pleasure, as in the case of dogfighting and cockfighting. Steve King is such a person. He has not only exhibited cruelty toward fellow humans, with his various anti-gay statements and political positions, but he has also exhibited cruelty toward animals. I hesitate to call a human being evil, but I think that term may well be appropriate for Steve King. I think that the time has come for Congress to seriously consider expelling him.

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