I’ve got a stack of notes of facts, anecdotes, statistics and/or blog topics I heard, read, or thought of lately that’s gotten quite tall. I’m going to present the info scatter-shot in hopes of exorcising the demons/clearing off my dresser of the stack of paper. Here goes:
Gay Marriage in Massachusetts
Recently Massachusetts voters organized a petition to get a ballot initiative to try to overrule the Massachusetts Supreme Court and ban gay marriage in Massachusetts. The argument for the ballot initiative was that we’re a democracy and we, the voters, should decide what it right and wrong, constitutional and not. In a Catholic Mass at the church I attend, a Priest I very much admire and care for asked us to sign the petition and give the people a voice in government and let them decide if they want gay marriage to be legal or not. I didn’t sign the petition. Sometime later, when the legislators were going to decide if they would allow the ballot initiative to go forward or not, I called my state reps and politely asked them to block the initiative.
But, what about letting the people decide? What about democracy? Friends, we don’t live in a direct democracy, we live in a constitutional republic. We ELECT leaders to REPRESENT us in the state and federal government. If they make unpopular decisions, and enough people get off their duff and vote for someone else come election time, they won’t be representing the people for very long.
I’ve been on the pro-gay marriage side since the debate started. It seems ludicrous to me that in a country that is dedicated to the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of its citizens, in the 21st century, that we are having a debate over whether or not two people of the same sex who love each other can’t enter into a legal arrangement and be married.
I’ve talked with some on the other side of the issue, and they make no valid points. If their interpretation of their religion says gay marriage is disgusting and evil, I disagree, but in this country they are free to practice their religion, as long as they don’t drag it into government or the public square; incite violence; etc. There is a wall separating church and state for a reason. The founders of this country and the framers of the constitution didn’t want a theocracy. Don’t let a man marry a man or a woman marry a woman at your church if that is what you think Jesus says to do. Condemn the practice in your sermons and homilies if you want. Just remember it seems a tad hypocritical to condemn gays and/or gay marriage and then sing a hymn entitled “All Are Welcome” (one of my favorites, by the way).
Those darn contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan
Several Iraq Vets, both callers and guests, on the Randi Rhodes show said that contractors in Iraq are a HUGE liability in many ways. 1. Security contractors like Blackwater and the Australian Unity group are killing civilians. On its face this is terrible, but some of it can be rationalized as the by-product of operating in a war zone. But, as ordinary Iraqis lump the Mercs in with the US Soldiers and Marines as “American Occupiers”, every incident involving contractors killing civilians makes life much more dangerous for our troops and hinders their chances of winning “hearts and minds”. 2. If there is a major attack on US forces a la the Tet offensive, the shit will really hit the fan. In Vietnam during the Tet offensive, the cooks, truck drivers, mechanics, accountants, etc., all dropped what they were doing, grabbed their rifles, and fought off the attacks. All, or most, support personnel in Vietnam were US military trained to fight. In Iraq the soldiers and marines would have to repel the attack while also defending large compliments of civilian contractors. Most of us realize this would be a bad thing and put our soldiers in greater danger. 3. Contractors charge the government lots of bucks for their services in a war zone. Our soldiers get hazardous duty pay and the like, but contractors get no-bid contracts and cost plus billing. This means the soldiers and marines are working side-by-side with civilians who were getting paid many times G.I. pay to do jobs the soldiers and marines are willing and able to do. This is a morale buster and an insult to our brave men and women in uniform.
School vouchers are just another tax break/subsidy for the upper-middle class and the wealthy. It gives people of means a small break on the costs of sending their scion to exclusive, pricey private schools while the poor and middle class are screwed. They can’t afford to send their kids to the exclusive academies, so their “voucher” just means their kids are forced to attend the same public schools as before, except that the public schools will now be massively underfunded in order to pay for the tax break–I mean vouchers–for the rich and upper-middle class.
The “Fenced in/collared” media?
In my notes I have a stat that 72% of working journalists/newspeople want to report and investigate REAL stories. I don’t know where the stat is from, and I’m not google-savvy enough to find it. So, instead of a lag-dog press, it seems we have a press on a dog run, in a cage, or fitted with one of those electric-shock administering training collars.
In this age of media consolidation, outsourcing, and extreme partisanship, it’s a dangerous time to be a truth-teller in any media. Look what happened to Phil Donahue and Dan Rather. Donahue gave anti-Iraq War folks (Scott Ritter) a voice on his show prior to the invasion and it got him canned. Rather reported on W. going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard and got tarred, feathered, and fired for his reporting of that “inconvenient” truth. Look at how Big Cable (Comcast, Charter) is trying to move/has moved MSNBC from basic cable into a higher-cost package so they can, 1. Get more bucks from people who can’t live without their Countdown w/Keith Olbermann. And 2. Prevent those who are still “sleeping” from seeing Olbermann and getting a clue as to what’s going on in George Bush’s America.
Working media like their salaries, health insurance, 401ks, etc. They want to keep their job, just like you and me. They want access to their favorite administration source and they want their kids in expensive private schools. They know if they step out of line, their corporate masters will axe them and find someone more willing to tow the line. Completely coincidentally, in addition to being more docile, their replacement will be younger, perkier, and much better looking than the person who’s job they’re taking.
A quote from American Fascists by Chris Hedges (great book):
“When people come to believe that they are immune from evil, that there is no resemblance between themselves and those they define as the enemy, they will inevitably grow to embody the evil they claim to fight. It is only by grasping our own capacity for evil, our own darkness, that we hold our own capacity for evil at bay. When evil is always external, then moral purification always entails the eradication of others.” (p. 151)
Ollie North–Great American Hero?
Recently, a TV talking head on a network other than Fox News channel called Oliver North a great American hero. While it is true that lieutenant colonel North did serve in the marine corps in Vietnam, and was awarded a silver star, bronze star and 2 purple hearts, his later role in the clandestine, illegal sale of arms to Iran tarnished his heroic service to his country in Vietnam.
Hunter S. Thompson said it best in a short piece in his SF Examiner days called “God Bless Colonel North” (collected in Generation of Swine: Gonzo Papers, vol. 2). Thompson fillets North’s patriotism by insinuating North is partially responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 because he sold arms to Iran.
Also on North, Iran-Contra hearings made Oliver North a star, by John D. Saxon in the Birmingham (AL) News:
North was the architect of the “diversion,” a scheme to sell arms to Iran (never mind Iran was on the State Department’s list of terrorist nations, and to do so would violate the Arms Export Control Act) at a marked-up price, take the profit and “divert” it to the Contras (never mind that to do so violated the Boland Amendment, which Congress passed prohibiting U.S. government assistance to the Contras).
Not my definition of an American hero, unless you excise all elements of North’s career after his service in Vietnam.