Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Politics and Tings

Just so you’ll know where I stand – as if you don’t already – as if you care – I will not be voting Republican in November. I am not one of the uninformed masses who blindly vote along party lines. No, I have followed the Republican activities more closely this year than in any previous year.

You see, four years ago, as we approached the elections, I considered supporting Mitt Romney. The U.S. economy was tanking and I believed that instead of a politician in the highest office in the land, we needed someone with real-world business experience. I didn’t know much about him then, other than that he was a businessman who had been called upon to save the Olympic Games in 2002.

The party chose to go with McCain/Palin instead, and quite effectively gave away the election.

This time around, however, as I have paid more attention to what’s going on, I find I can’t stomach either the Republican Party or its candidate. And there are just two reasons why:

First, there’s the Republican Party Platform. As spelled out at the Republican National Convention that is going on right now in Tampa, the Republican political platform includes an absolute position against abortion (even in the case of rape, incest, or threat to the health of the mother… see more below) and gay marriage (supporting a constitutional amendment stating marriage is one man and one woman); it opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants; it promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act and wants to convert Medicare into a voucher system; it wants to open up more possibilities for education (like homeschooling) and make English the official language; it opposes all gun control laws, supports the public display of the Ten Commandments, and opposes public employee unions.

Oh, and here’s a good one. They promise to wipe out ALL taxes on investment income and dividend income for the poor and middle class… like the poor and middle class have that much investment income!

In short, whatever the Democrats are in favor of, the Republicans are against it!

And that pretty much explains why the current Congress has gone down in history as having done less than any other Congress… ever! The Republican Party has made it their goal these past four years to undermine everything President Obama and the Democratic Party have attempted, even some pieces of legislation that they once favored! Their brazen and unapologetic goal has been stated time and again: to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president!
As an American citizen, I can’t accept that. This is a Democracy. As Americans we have agreed that the highest vote-getter wins. We can elect someone else in four years if we want, but in the meantime, the President is OUR President! When we bicker and refuse to cooperate, we all lose.

The angry rhetoric I have heard is simply unacceptable. There are those who still question the President’s place of birth, despite the public release of his birth certificate, despite the certification of the official in Hawaii who has responsibility for such, and despite actual newspaper announcements from the day. There are those who still question the President’s religious faith, despite his repeated assurance that he is a Christian. There are those who blame him for the financial mess of our country, despite the fact that it was former President Bush (a Republican) who gave away an inherited budget surplus through tax breaks (which the supposedly fiscally-responsible Republicans want to keep), who took us into two unnecessary and prolonged wars in the Middle East, who was looking the other way as the Banks played fast and free with our money, and who began the bail-outs that President Obama simply continued.
What? Was he supposed to just let the American auto industry collapse? What would the Republicans say then!?!
And where is former President Bush during the convention this week? He has become that crazy uncle that the family locks in his bedroom whenever company comes over! They are embarrassed to be associated with him and hope that no one will notice that he is not there.
Adding to the ugly rhetoric, one Republican in Texas argued for a tax increase to beef up the local police by threatening that if President Obama gets re-elected, a civil war is likely to erupt, and he wants a strong, well-trained police force to protect the community when that happens!
No, instead of playing to the extremes of the party/country, we should be looking for some middle ground. We have become extremely polarized, which has led to our becoming paralyzed. The Republican Party platform adopted this week only continues that polarization.
Then there’s Mitt Romney himself. The man appears to have no core beliefs; he sails with the prevailing winds, as they say. He can’t talk about his experience as a business leader because Bain Capital made him a lot of money by buying and closing businesses, not creating jobs as some want us to believe. He can’t talk about his tenure as governor of Massachusetts because there he passed a state-wide mandatory insurance bill after which the Affordable Care Act was directly modeled – the latter of which he promises to immediately strike down on the day he takes office. He can’t talk about his religious beliefs because he is a Mormon, which the Religious Right (which still holds a lot of power in the Republican Party) has always insisted is not a Christian denomination. He “saved” the Olympics in 2002 by convincing Congress to write a big check, a government largesse which the Republican Party today is stridently opposed to. And he won’t talk specifics about what he would do to turn around this nation’s economic decline – he just says, “Trust me!”
As if…   
To that point, we can learn a lot from whom he selected as his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, who drafted a draconian budget proposal in 2010 that was approved twice by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but defeated by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
To make matters worse, Romney’s millions of dollars (which I don’t hold against him) have been safely deposited in Caymen Island accounts and a secret Swiss bank account (which I do hold against him!) instead of being invested in America. His refusal to release more of his tax returns than legally required only raises more questions about his earlier business dealings. And because he has long led the high life, he is completely out of touch with the concerns of the poor in our country.
Returning to the Republican Party’s platform on abortion, we need to look at the recent pronouncements of other Republican wack-a-doodles. A couple weeks ago, a congressman from Missouri (running for the Senate) confirmed in an interview that he was totally opposed to abortion. When pressed on if he would make an exception in the case of rape, he responded that in the case of “legitimate rape”, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down and she can’t get pregnant.

That fleeting moment of bad science was immediately shouted down by both Democrats and Republicans, and conservative talk-radio guru Rush Limbaugh suggested he drop out of the Senate race altogether. Even Mitt Romney expressed his disagreement with the statement and assured us that he would allow for abortions in the case of rape and incest, and if the life of the mother is at stake.
Some have criticized him for spouting the “Mormon position” on abortion. The bigger problem is that’s not what the Republicans voted for in their platform this week!
The more the Senate-wannabe tried to apologize for his statement, the worse it got. Romney’s vice-presidential pick tried to argue that rape is “just another method of conception”, so why should an innocent baby have to suffer? Yet another Republican argued that abortion is illegal in the case of rape because the father of the baby has parental rights – yes, the rapist! – and unless he consents, the mother cannot have an abortion! In fact, taken to a ridiculous extreme, there could be prolonged custody battles, child support payments, etc. that would inextricably tie the woman to her rapist for the next 18 years!
So, yes, I have made up my mind. I cannot vote for Mitt Romney or any Republican in November. I just couldn’t respect myself in the morning if I did.

The Democratic National Convention is coming up soon. I’ll let you know then if I can vote for President Obama or any Democrats.
In the meantime, I am carefully considering a third-party candidate.
 As my friend and fellow blogger “Hula Girl at Heart” pointed out, He knows how to build a billion dollar empire, stimulate local economies and instill a positive attitude in large groups of people... consistently and continually. Oh, and he doesn't say stupid stuff about women!”



Monday, August 13, 2012

The Fat Lady Sang...

The 2012 Olympic Games have ended, and congrats to London for doing a good job hosting it.

But to be honest, will anyone care?

I've paid only marginal attention to the games these past two weeks. The First Mate wanted to watch every possible minute and I sat nearby keeping occupied with other things, only occasionally glancing up to see "who won".

The opening ceremonies were a far cry from China's extravaganza in 2008, but I know it's not fair to compare. So let me just say, I found the opening ceremony a disjointed mess of Britis history, designed as much for the massive television audience as it was for the crowds at the stadium that night.

Of course, NBC's coverage, with it's odd cutaways and incessant narration, didn't help. And shame on you, NBC, for cutting away to yet another interview with Michael Phelps as Great Britain remembered a tragic episode in its recent history!

But the Flame was lit and the Games were on!

I was particularly interested in women's beach volleyball - Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh as returning champs, and Jenn Kessy and April Ross as challengers. Turned out these two American teams battled each other for the gold, leaving Brazil's Juliana & Larrissa to take the bronze.

Unfortunately, because of time differences between here and London, and because the social media can't keep a secret, I always knew the outcome of the matches before NBC got around to showing them. That kind of took the fun out of watching.

The cold, damp London weather also took some of the fun out of watching!

Of course, some criticized NBC for their camera angles during women's events.

Why, whatever do you mean?

Throughout the Games, I saw instances of gracious victories and gracious losses. There were also a few examples of poor losers and poor winners - yes, I'm talking to you, little miss "I'm mad because I only won a silver medal"!

For your information, you little snot, there were seven countries for which one silver medal was all they took home! Be grateful for what you got!

NBC, which will not win any awards for its broadcast of the Olympics, was kind enough on a couple occasions to give us sneak previews of new shows they are launching this fall... new shows I will now not be watching!

Which brings us quickly to last night's closing ceremony, a mish-mash of British music history. Seriously, it was the first time I have sat with an open internet googling the names of the performers to figure out who they are and why they were allowed to be a part of the show!

I mean, who is this Jessie J?

"And where are her pants?" the First Mate demanded to know. 

The Captain did not complain...

But seriously, Jessie J singing a "Queen" song? And Russell Brand singing trying to sing selections from the Beatles?

I'm pretty sure he was completely lip-syncing there!

Then there was the fabled reunion of the Spice Girls! Rockin' like it's 1999...!

But for all the hype, they only did parts of two songs. Hardly made it worth the effort to squeeze Mel B into that body stocking... an effort the Captain appreciated, by the way!

But the Spice Girls did not close the show, as many speculated. Eric Idle did. In fact, he stole the show!

We could have done without the phony cannon shtick, but when Idle emerged singing, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", everyone saw the closing ceremony for the joke that it was!

Despite all the pomp and circumstances of the monarchy, the British people don't take life too seriously.

And neither should you!

The next Summer games will be held in Rio de Janero, Brazil in 2016.

I have no doubt Rio will be ready for the world... but will the world be ready for Rio?!?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Of Dreams and Things

My last couple posts have been a little on the serious side – a lot of chum keeping the waters stirred up lately – so this one will be a little more light-hearted… I hope!

Last night I had a dream.

No, not the Martin Luther King Jr. kind of dream!

Just a dream.

This is significant because 1) either I don’t dream much or 2) I never remember my dreams once I wake up.

Oddly enough, in this dream I was dreaming, and I woke up in my dream and told others about it. Then, when I woke up, it was still fresh on my mind because I had rehearsed it already!

Or maybe I remember it because it involved a song that stuck in my head.

WARNING: This blog contains a song that, if played, will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You have been fairly warned.

Anyway, for whatever reason (don’t analyze it too much, okay?), in my dream my father was still alive. And I discovered that once he had been in a band.

This is not true – he was once a radio DJ, back in the old days of FM radio – but in my dream he had been in a band.

So, in my dream, I set about to put the band back together (with apologies to “The Blues Brothers”):


Anyway, we gather all the band members, dust off the instruments that have sat in someone’s basement since the late 60s, and the band begins to play…

I don’t know what any of this means… don’t really care… but I just added “Little Arrows” to my iPod playlist!

What fun!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Read the Bible!

Not long ago, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A restaurants, made a statement during an interview that set off a firestorm of controversy.

If you missed that controversy, you must have been living under a rock!

In that interview, the unapologetic Christian businessman stood up for his traditional views on marriage. Large segments of the social media went into overdrive with outrage, charging that Cathy was discriminating against same-sex couples. Threats were made, a “Kiss-In” has been organized for August 3rd (I’ll let your imagination figure out what that might be), some even suggested going to Chick-fil-A “in drag”.

This last suggestion, however, only shows the ignorance of some, in that cross-dressers and homosexuals are not the same thing!

What many failed to accept, however, is the truth that in America, Dan Cathy has a right to his opinion. And while his opinion may not be the same as my opinion, he has a right to express it. He even has the right to use his privately-held company’s money to support extreme organizations who work fervently to oppose same-sex marriage, which he has done regularly and to the tune of millions of dollars.

What his opponents also failed to realize is that the controversy has caused Cathy’s conservative Christian supporters to rise up en masse – which may have been Cathy’s strategy all along! A Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was organized for August 1st and, from most reports, the restaurants were packed!

In the same way that Cathy has the right to express his opinion, the rest of the world has the right to respond to his public pronouncements with their own opinions, hopefully expressing them in a peaceful manner. They have the right to stop eating at his restaurants if his public statements offend them. They even have the right to kiss at his restaurants and dress in drag if they so choose.

I love the First Amendment!

I found Cathy’s position predictable. He has never made any excuses for his Christian faith, nor did his father before him. Chick-fil-A restaurants have always been closed on Sundays – even though, in many cases, they must often pay a fine to malls and other landlords who insist on their businesses being open on Sundays.

What concerned me most about Dan Cathy’s interview was something else. He said, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.” He went on to explain what he meant by “the biblical definition”: “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wivesI pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about."

It always makes my ears perk up when I hear someone claim that they are in the right because they are being “biblical”. Who can argue with God’s will? A friend in college would often say, “You do it your way, I’ll do it God’s way” …an arrogant assumption.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage, the Bible demonstrates a wide range of definitions, many of which we HAVE redefined over the past 2,000 years. See the following chart:

In the Old Testament, marriages (at least those we read about) were between men and women. These were property transactions, transferring a woman from being her father’s property to being her husband’s property. Romantic love had nothing to do with it. This ensured the social security of “the weaker sex” and provided the means to fulfill the commandment of God to “fill the earth”, i.e. make babies. Sadly, barren women were often lifted up in Scripture in shame for being unable to fulfill their God-given obligation of making babies.

Is that the biblical definition of marriage Dan Cathy was talking about?

Furthermore, if a woman could not prove that she was a virgin on her wedding day, she was to be stoned to death.

God’s Law, not mine.

Would Cathy advocate that we resume stoning women? It’s biblical!

Also in the Old Testament, a woman whose husband died and left her without a son to provide for her was required to marry her brother-in-law, even if he was already married.

Yes, I know, that’s called “polygamy”, but it is the Law of God.

Is that the biblical definition of marriage Dan Cathy is promoting?

Furthermore, many of the patriarchs had multiple wives AND concubines. Many of King Solomon’s wives were gifts from foreign nationals, given to him in marriage as a form of treaty between their respective nations. [Note: God condemned Solomon for this only because he allowed them to bring their foreign gods with them.]

Another biblical definition of marriage apparently approved of by God.

Yet despite the biblical basis for polygamy, the Mormon Church (LDS) was forced to officially discontinue their practice of polygamy before Utah was allowed to join the United States.

There we go again, “re-defining what marriage is about!”

Jesus said nothing about marriage – or about same-sex marriage - although he did bless the marriage at Cana of Galilee with an abundance of really good wine! Dan Brown’s speculations aside, as far as we know Jesus never married. But Jesus did agree with Dan Cathy on the issue of divorce, going so far as to say that remarrying after a divorce makes one an adulterer.

Oddly enough, every state in America sanctions divorce and remarriage.

In fact, a colleague rightly pointed out recently that while I can be de-frocked for performing a same-sex union (about which Jesus said nothing), I am well within my rights and job description to perform a wedding for a person coming back for a second, third or fourth time.


The Apostle Paul, whose letters make up the lion’s share of the New Testament, believed that Christ was going to return during his own lifetime. To that end, he advised, there is no need for ANYONE to marry… “unless you are aflame with passion,” he conceded.

That, too, is biblical.

My point is, it is dangerous to try to impose one’s own world view upon others based on an ancient religious text that does not really support that world view. As demonstrated above, there are numerous examples of marriage mentioned in the Bible that don’t conform to Dan Cathy’s ideal.

Instead of dragging God and the Bible into the argument (which is happening way too often today), why not just stop at, “This is what I believe”? Again, you have a right to your opinion.

As for me, I believe it must be five o’clock somewhere!