Thursday, December 20, 2012

Senator Gooch

Is it just me, or is Senator Patty Murray the spitting image of the great character actress Jane Connell?

Random Pop Culture Quote of the Day

Sally: You're NOT a lesbian. I mean, everybody has girlfriends. Men have friends, women have friends. That doesn't make you a lesbian. Do you sleep in the same room with her?

Jessica: Sure. How else can I be a lesbian?

Sally: Where does Mark sleep?

Jessica: With us.

Sally: In the same bed?

Jessica: In the same bed.

Sally: Is that a way to bring up a boy? He'll be a lesbian!

Jessica: How can a boy be a lesbian?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Random Pop Culture Quote of the Day

"Mr. Weinberger, Dawn Davenport is eating a meatball sandwich, RIGHT out in class.  And she's been passing notes!"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's Not Just Our Hearts That Are Broken - It's Our Society

The horrible shooting yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut has, understandably, elicited very strong reactions from people around the country, and likely around the world. Along with the outrage, sadness, shock, and disgust, people have been quick to make all manner of pronouncements about what the shooting says about our society. This happens every time there is a major incidence of gun violence in America, and the debate is always the same, with some people speaking of the need for gun legislation reform, and others howling that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," and pressing the panic button that some form of totalitarian effort to take everybody's guns away from them is just around the corner. Inevitably, though, after a few days or weeks have passed, everybody moves on, and nothing changes.

What isn't being said enough, however, is that the debate over gun control laws is only one small piece of the puzzle. What's broken here is not just our relationship to guns, but our entire society. Those of us who were brazen enough to suggest on the day of the shooting that it's beyond time to look at our gun laws have been blasted, accused of "opportunism," of using the bodies of the dead children to advance some political agenda, presumably that faux-libertarian trope of the tyrannical liberal seeking to strip the masses of their liberty, just for the hell of it. What does it say about us that we can't even have a CONVERSATION about how we handle gun ownership in this country without people getting hysterical and pulling out the tired "from my cold dead hands" shtick?

Let me just start by telling those who get so outraged that this should even be a discussion to calm the fuck down - nobody is trying to take away your handgun. Nobody. Get over that nonsense, grow up, and allow for one minute the possibility that there is a reasonable discussion to be had about the responsibility that comes with gun ownership, and the responsibility of the government to protect its people. Or do your rights to unfettered, unconditional access to any weapon you like, under any circumstances, trump the rights of children to feel safe in their schools, shoppers to feel safe in the mall, families to feel safe going to the movies, and worshipers to feel safe in their temples and churches? 

Under current law, it's far too easy for guns to fall into the hands of those whom nobody would like to see have them.  The argument that there is no way to guarantee that those people won't get them even with stronger regulation is no argument at all. Just because something isn't 100% effective doesn't mean it isn't worth doing. Many gun advocates even make the absurd argument that acts like the Newtown massacre could have been prevented if MORE people had guns. There is absolutely no evidence to support this. There is not a single recorded incident of a mass killing that was stopped or prevented by a private citizen armed with a handgun, and reason suggests that such a private citizen would likely do more harm than good if so armed.

The mindset that any gun regulation is tantamount to stripping of 2nd Amendment rights is the same one that sees any sort of regulation on the financial industry as virtual socialism, and an affront to the very notion of free enterprise. It's a form of absolutism, and an inability to see the world in anything but stark contrasts of black and white, with no shades of gray in-between. And it's both wrong-headed and dangerous.

But this unwillingness to enter into a conversation, or allow for the possibility of a sensible middle ground, is symptomatic of the larger issue I mentioned above - that our society as a whole is broken. There is clearly something terribly wrong with a society in which this many atrocious acts can occur, with such soul-deadening regularity. Guns themselves are not the problem, and access to them is only one piece of the puzzle (though an important piece). Acts like what we witnessed in Newtown are the work of sick minds, and in order to understand how to prevent such acts requires the willingness to look at the system in which such minds develop. How can we do a better job of recognizing the warning signs of such sickness, and addressing them when we see them? In the national discussion about health care, far too little has been about mental health, and in fact mental health services are among the most difficult and costly to obtain, as well as the most stigmatized.

If we are truly going to deal with gun violence in America, we have to be willing to look at all of these issues, and not only discuss them, but act upon them. Gun control and access to mental health are both key, but so are the underlying social conditions that create the environment in which such violence occurs. Our radically divided political landscape has engendered hostility and resentment, and a resistance to compromise and civility that exceeds anything I've seen, including during the politically charged late 60's and early 70's.(I know it's shocking that I'm old enough to remember those days, but I do.) Our economy is more imbalanced than at any time since the 1920's. Economic opportunity and the "American dream" seem more and more an impossible dream to America's youth. And, perhaps as important as anything else, our technological advances have driven us into methods of communication that keep us at once totally wired in, twenty-four hours a day, and yet utterly isolated, speaking to each other through a series of e-mails, facebook posts, and tweets rather than face to face.

I was recently at a play with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, and we were fortunate enough to have seats in the front row of the balcony at a large theatre here in Los Angeles. During intermission, I looked down into the orchestra section, and couldn't help noticing that nobody was talking to each other.  Row after row, all I saw were the illuminated faces of people's "smart" phones, as they texted, tweeted, e-mailed, and checked in. And just last night, at a family holiday party, I looked across the room at a grandfather and two of his granddaughters, all three sitting on a sofa, each with their phones in their hands, tapping away. How can we expect to have a normal sense of community when we can't even sit with our own family and TALK without "multi-tasking."

So let's get real here, admit we have real problems, with real consequences, stop demonizing each other for wanting to address them, let go of the fear that anybody is trying to take anything away from you, and go about looking for ways to make our society better, stronger, more civil, less violent, and more in balance. Nature abhors a vacuum, but it loves balance, and that's something of which we currently have precious little.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Still Don't Get It. Help Me Understand WHY You Would Vote for Mitt.

I have yet to have one of my Republican or conservative-leaning friends accept my challenge to explain to me WHY they support Mitt Romney, a proven liar, whose entire economic plan has been debunked not only by economic analysts who say his math doesn't add up, but now by the Congressional Research Service, which debunks its entire premise. I repeat the challenge here, three days before the election -- please explain why you support him.

I will throw a little detail into my challenge.

1) Explain how you justify the absolute lies he has been telling in the last two weeks about Jeep moving production to China. This has been definitely debunked by Chrysler itself, whose top executives have expressly called Romney a liar over this, and by the CEO of General Motors, who called Romney's actions "cynical politics at their worst."

2) Explain how you justify Romney's flagrant lie about Obama "gutting welfare reform." This has been thoroughly debunked and proven to be a total lie, and yet Romney continues to run ads repeating it.

3) Explain how you justify his support of a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. This is a key one, and the one that will take the most courage for you to answer, as I find support for this beyond objectionable, and 100% intolerable on every level.

4) Explain how you justify his attacks on President Obama for "throwing Israel under the bus," when both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'artez have ringingly endorsed him as being good for Israel, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has definitively stated that the Obama administration has been far and away the most supportive American administration in history - a claim that can be backed up  by the material evidence of support provided.

5) Explain your acceptance of his seemingly magical claim that the economy will get better JUST by the fact of his election? Explain also how you can agree that Obama has made the economy worse (a claim Romney has made over and over again) when he halted the worst economic downturn in 80 years within one year, and has produced over 30 months of consecutive job gains, including over a half million in the last three months alone. Don't try to tell me that the unemployment rate was 7.8% when he took office and 7.9% now - what's important is that in those first few months of Obama's administration, long before his policies could take effect, the unemployment rate had soared well above 10%.

6) Explain how Romney can claim that Obama's policies have "failed," when not only are they succeeding on every economic metric (employment, consumer confidence, housing prices, the stock market rebound, etc), but they have done so in spite of unprecedented obstruction from Congress, including failure to pass Obama's jobs act that would have put over a million additional people back to work.

7) Explain how you believe that Romney will balance the budget and work in a bipartisan way, when no Republican since Eisenhower has balanced the budget, but Bill Clinton did so year after year, enacting some of the same taxation policies that Obama wants to enact now.  

8) Explain how you think that Romney will be better for job creation, when his own record as Governor of Massachusetts was a colossal failure on this metric, plunging the state to 47th in the nation on job creation.

9) Explain how you believe his attempted tack to the middle, after going all out during the primaries to appease the far-right wing of his party, saying, for instance, that he would be happy to sign a bill that would ban ALL abortions, including in cases of rape or incest. You have to believe one thing or another here - either that he was telling the truth the first time, and really is that radical, or that, now that he says something quite different, he's a shameless liar and panderer.

10) And finally, explain to me how you can justify his speech at the infamous fund-raiser in Boca Raton, where he referred to 47% of Americans who he says see themselves as "victims," who are unwilling to accept responsibility for their own lives. Do you realize who those 47% really are? They're senior citizens who paid into Social Security and Medicare their entire working lives, and are now collecting those payments - not government handouts, but payments of the insurance plans into which they paid for years. They're veterans who receive the benefits they have earned and that they well deserve for putting their lives on the line for our country. They're active military personnel. They're the working poor, who may work two or three jobs to take care of their families, but still don't earn enough to meet the minimum requirement for paying federal income tax but pay many other forms of taxation and do their part to the best of their ability. Then explain how, for weeks after that video became public, Romney defended his statements, saying they may have been inelegantly stated but that he stood by the content, then after he TANKED in the polls, largely because of the video, he turned around and recanted, saying he didn't mean to say that at all. Again, please explain how you can fail to call him a liar for this.

I could burden you with dozens more specific questions, but I seriously doubt that any of you will rise even to this challenge, so I will not waste additional space on them. As a matter of fact, I'll be satisfied if you simply answer the basic question - why do you support this lying sack of bat crap? I know that's a bit like asking "just when did you stop beating your wife," but the question is clear and I really want to know, because for the life of me, I simply cannot understand how anybody I care about or respect could support such a truly awful man, with such a wholly incorrect vision for America, and one that would specifically discriminate against me. Help me.