We have entered a strange period in America, a time when most of us have begun to equate political leaning with ethical and moral belief systems. We seem to believe we can judge the goodness of heart, soundness of intent, and purity of will in another by simply viewing their voting pattern. And far, far too often, we are ready to excuse ethical lapses and moral turpitude when they are committed by those with whom we identify.
The issue of sexual assault in the military is the current best bad example, with people who ought to know better tripping over themselves trying to find justification and political leverage. Make no mistake, sexual assault in the military is a problem; females in the service are more likely (in some classes, as much as four times more likely) to be the victim of an assault than females outside of the military. And that really ought to be the sum of the problem; honor and discipline being paramount virtues of the military, there should never be an excuse or rationalization for the problem.
The RM will feature random thoughts from the desert today, as I am back in my ancestral home for the graduations of niece #1 (high school) and niece #4 (kindergarten).
Dick Cheney is upset about the encroachment of the government on people’s rights with regards to firearms. The man who shot a guy in the face is upset because elected officials tried to introduce a plan supported by a majority of NRA members and 90% of Americans (and which didn’t touch handguns, hunting rifles, or shotguns.) This is also the same guy who championed the destruction of our 4th Amendment rights via warrant-less wiretaps and the various other travesties of the Patriot Act. So in Cheney’s worldview, the government has the right to warrant-less search and seizure, but citizens have the right to shoot government agents as the enter to search and seize? We have embraced in our nation a sinister new vision of checks and balances.
From Fox News
Congressman Darrell Issa called White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a “paid liar”…the notion of any politician labeling another a liar being enough to draw hearty chuckles from most Americans…but that is not my point. Former Obama adviser David Plough got off an incendiary blast against the Chief Scandal-Monger of the House, saying of Issa in a tweet; “Strong words from Mr. Grand Theft Auto and arsonist/insurance swindler.” Fox News had a panel on during the afternoon, one that we can all be sure was “fair and balanced”. Their assessment seemed to be that Issa might have been a bit harsh, but that Plough was way overboard because no charges were ever brought against Issa and the incidents were so long ago. That’s right friends…this is Fox News dismissing an item because it was neither topical nor related to the issue at hand.
From the Nexus of Sports and Politics
Longtime friends of the RM will know of my particular hatred of taxpayer funded stadiums, and this week we learned of a doozie. Chicago is closing 50 schools…the old funding chestnut rears its ugly head. In other news, Chicago is contributing $100 million to the building of a new arena for Depaul University. The Rational Middle has a few simple questions:
Seriously though…why? Why does Depaul need a new arena? Why doesn’t Depaul fund its own new arena? Why does Chicago have enough money to help build a basketball stadium for a college, but not enough to fund the basic public education that used to form the foundation for U.S. greatness? Emanuel offered a lame, conservative politician-like line of bullshit in defense of the move, speaking of the economic opportunity it would provide. And the economic loss caused by the closure of 50 schools? Not a word. I should sincerely hope that this incident marks the end of Emanuel’s career as a progressive politician. Maybe he can go to work for the Koch family.
The Rational Middle is listening…
I was thinking about my annual Memorial Day post, reading Facebook memes and historical pieces on the origin of the holiday, when I ran across an advertisement. The video game, Call of Duty, was reminding fans and potential fans of its existence. A so-called first-person shooter, Call of Duty is challenging, engrossing, and fun. It also features the type of realism that pleases the cynics and worries society. Or should worry society, at any rate.
It only requires a brief period of listening to the comments of players engaged in virtual combat to understand the depth of hostility and hatred that the game seems to capture and focus. From the mouths of babes and adults alike come an endless stream of death threats and a stunning variety of racial abuse. The line between fun and violence glorification has clearly been breached for many in games like these, and many critics have questioned what harm first-person shooters can do to society. I have questioned it myself, as one who has played (and enjoyed) the franchise, and as one who has fired (and enjoyed firing) an assault rifle.
But I don’t believe the game is the cause, and I don’t believe that random interpersonal violence is the dangerous effect.
The Rational Middle has, for some weeks now, been quite literally under water. (My basement had four feet of the stuff in it, and there I was with all of my swimsuits still in mothballs.) I have endeavored to write, but the task has been beyond my grasp…when faced with a mess of this size, where does one start? For the next few days, I will work through the following subjects that have attracted my attention, peaked my curiosity, or just ticked me off.
- Benghazi- Now and forever known as the “worst disaster” in Dick Cheney’s lifetime (his words), in any other time (or with a Republican in the White House) it would have been just a normal, if tragic, cost of doing business. The United States believes in an international presence, a presence that asks us to routinely deploy good people in dangerous places. Dozens (yes conservative friends, dozens) of diplomatic targets have been attacked by various forces regardless of the party affiliation of the White House during the last three decades. Many of these diplomatic targets were CIA fronts which demanded both secrecy and deniability. So where again is the scandal?
- IRSGate- When it is a person with an appearance that speaks to a Middle Eastern decent, and that person is hand-searched at the airport, it is useful and moral profiling. When it is the agency tasked with collecting all of the taxes which are legally and morally due, and they are targeting groups that openly state their intention to avoid said taxes, it is a massive scandal. (These “scandals” really are Republican’s following the Rambo Doctrine…fire enough bullets at a target and you will eventually find the mark…even with Hollywood bullets.) PS…President Obama’s statement condemning this action represents one of the great caves of all time, and a terrible tactical blunder.
- Corporate Welfare (NFL-style)- When lawmakers refused to vote on a tax which would have set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate the Miami Dolphins’ (the private, for-profit Miami Dolphins) stadium, Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a back-handed threat; “We want the Dolphins to stay in Miami.” Why wouldn’t they? Better question; why don’t the various states pass laws in parallel banning the use of any public funding for private sports franchises?
- Jumping The Shark (NFL-style)- NFL.com has officially replaced all reporting with editorializing.
- Tebow- The story that won’t die, fueled by the single most ridiculous argument in the history of sports; that Tebow’s religion is a cause for teams to “blackball” him (as if most coaches on most teams don’t pray before games, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes isn’t the most ubiquitous player organization not called the NFLPA.)
- Falling deficits, job-challenged recoveries, and the nonsense of fiscal austerity- Six years after the economy started to unravel, the United States of America is more committed than ever to reaching the goal of returning our education and commercial infrastructure to Third World status. Apparently, the “job-creators” demand the freedoms that lucky entrepreneurs in business havens like Mexico and Somalia enjoy.
Tune in for these stories and more, coming soon to The Rational Middle.
At some point in the last year I realized that age had caught up with me in the most superficially hurtful way; I left the key demographic. What I value, like, want, and need is no longer relevant to mass marketers. All of the music I like is relegated to classical and oldies stations. A solid majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis aren’t completely sure what I mean when I say “roll up the window.” A frighteningly large minority of the people I interact with believe that “dial up” is a charming relic of my (long ago) early years.
Worse, the knowledge deficit is bilateral. It wasn’t long ago (perhaps yesterday, or maybe last week) that I thought my father slow because he didn’t know what “bad” or “cool” meant. But it was only yesterday (perhaps a month ago, or maybe last year) that I learned what the term meme described. And now, firmly entrenched in the social networks as I am, the concept of meme is painfully unavoidable. A meme is a concept that goes viral, meaning that the number of people the concept is reaching is growing at an exponential rate (like an infectious virus). It is immediately evident that such growth is very good indeed if one (like a blogger) is trying to get their idea into the public consciousness.
Since the founding of this blog, a little less than four years ago now, the term liberal has been both major theme and point of contention. The fact that I chose to call the site The Rational Middle and be a liberal at the same time has drawn fire from conservatives and centrists (in today’s definition of that term) who have felt somehow tricked or trapped by the moniker. This I have grown accustomed to; I wanted to establish a site built more on original source reporting, and less on name-calling than other destinations in either the blogosphere or mainstream. I wanted to build a rational middle ground…thus the name.
Lately however, many in the liberal community have begun to attack the site and its themes, and the attack has a familiar pattern. For several years now, the conservative movement in general, and the Republican Party in particular, have waged “purity” wars. In Republican primary circles, to be called a RINO (Republican in name only) is to see the end of your public service career. On the surface, the notion of ideological purity carries a certain cache; it is, “those people” would say, the reason that conservatives have so successfully pushed the political standards of we the people so far to the right (whether the actual standards have followed suit is a matter of debate.) But what of reality? Why have so many items deemed important by voters been excised over the last thirty years? Why have so many bought the brand “center-right nation”, and installed it as believable?