Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some thoughts about that "Republican Clown Car"

Can you believe it?

Hardcore, conservative, dyed-in-the-wool Republican Senator Danforth called the republican presidential candidate field, "...embarrassing, they're terrible, just terrible for the party."

In recent days, more Republican pundits have referred to the Republican candidates transversing Iowa in search of conservative votes as the equivalent of a "clown car". I don't think I've ever seen such a violation of Ronald Reagan's "11th Commandment" (Thou shalt not speak ill of thine fellow Republican") as I have this year.

The phenomenon has puzzled me for a couple of weeks and I'll have to admit I've been absolutely dumbfounded by the inability of the most organized, well-disciplined, well-financed political machine in history to put forth a candidate capable of defeating a badly-wounded Democratic President like Obama. Fortunately, we had a light snowfall last night and instead of pulling out my beast of a snow blower, I took the time to shovel the porch and sidewalk. Fortunate? Well, actually, yes. Because shoveling a light snow allows the mind to wander and, if necessary, to focus on facts that are not immediately apparent otherwise.

So I started thinking about the "clown car" comment. On the surface, it is pretty factual. The candidates jumping into the fray are trying desperately to "out-crazy" one another. They are for the most part trying to "out-conservative" the other guy (or woman, because Bachman is still technically in the race).

Watching these people trip all over themselves to claim the crown of the "real conservative" in the race is like watching a Marx Brothers Comedy. It's so far over-the-top that you've got to believe that it is actually being done more for the laugh track than any serious political objective.

At least twice this year, MSNBC pundit Rachael Maddow has referred to certain Republican Presidential Campaigns as "performance art". She has been one of the few to recognize that this whole process seems more geared to mass entertainment (and distraction maybe?) than any serious attempt to elect a leader of the free world.

It occurred to me that the problem isn't that each of the candidates is clown-car-crazy but the agenda they are desperately trying to embrace is what is really clown-car-crazy. That would also be why no moderate, sensible Republican is in the race. Because in today's Republican Party, it's all about appeasing the Tea Party Crazies who parlayed a national recession and thinly disguised racism into a pseudo-political movement that (in turn) got hijacked by America's Oligarchy for fun and profit. No respectable Republican wants to be a part of this mess.

Let me be clear about this: The clownish, almost buffoonish cast of characters seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency is not a function of the quality of the candidates available to the Republican Party, but, instead a function of the agenda the Tea Party has forced them embrace. The agenda itself is the clown car. The candidates are just trying to hop on it and ride it to the White House.

It gets even worse. The money needed to get elected is behind the Tea Party and the Republican Party cannot survive without that money so they have to buy into the clown car agenda.

Is there a bright spot?


Maybe in some dark, smokey back room somewhere, some brilliant Republican Strategist has this all mapped out. Maybe the master plan is to allow the Tea Party to pick the candidate for 2012 and to crash and burn so badly that it even wipes out the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives, thereby cleansing the Republican Party of the the stench of the Tea Party in time for the 2016 elections where they can run against a pure, Democratic agenda.....

I can only hope.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Christmastime

A "rocking Toucan" for Christmas? Doesn't everybody?

It sort of sneaked up on me this year.

I've been hearing people talk about it...I've watched as a bunch of good-intentioned people have turned the park and zoo into an electric-light extravaganza for the purpose of stocking the local food pantry...I've watched the frenzy of Christmas shoppers in the retail stores as well as grocery stores...but...somehow I never felt Christmas would actually be here.

It's all, I don't know...anti-climatic?

I'm not going to do my annual rant about the commercialism of Christmas. I'm also not going to rant about the divergence between what Christianity ACTUALLY says about Christmas and the myths that have grown up around it....although I cannot resist mocking the sight of a lawn decoration that had Santa Claus in the Manger scene....I think my soul is far too callused to feel anything about those issues anymore. I have no delusions that society will suddenly come to its collective senses and start addressing the real problems that face us as a country, as a society, and hell....even as a species!

I think I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the company of the few members of the family who have gathered here and savor the time together. There will be good food, companionship and celebration of our common heritage and that....that should be enough.

To all my friends, I'll repost this ...just for you.

In my little corner of Wisconsin I have friends who are proudly of the Jewish faith. I have friends who are various denominations of Christian faith. I also have dear friends who are equally proud pagans. (I once politely demurred on joining them to dance naked around the bonfire on the solstice) and I have some friends who are vocally and proud atheists. The point is they all celebrate the season in different ways (or perhaps not at all) but that doesn't diminish my respect for them in any way. I want to wish them well on this season and sort of struggled on how to do it. I've worked hard to make Christmas/greeting card to them all and here's what I came up with:

Soooooo...from our house to yours.......may all the joys and happiness of this season belong to you and yours and may you truly enjoy celebration of this season according to the richest traditions of your faith or belief.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About that "war" on Christmas

I tuned in to a local radio talk show today and heard the host promoting tomorrow's program where he will have a guest on to discuss the "war on Christmas" and, in general a "push back against Christianity" because of the current Tebow craze.

To be fair, he made a very interesting distinction. He said that most of the effort to assert either position, either Christian or Secular was that it is a two-part proclamation. The first part establishes you as either secular or religious..and the second part is the implied, "I am christian/secular and you should be too." He claimed that it was this second part to which people seem to object.

Well.....yeah...there is that...but my take on it is slightly different...

I think that we should remember why we greet somebody with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or even "Happy Hanuka " we are doing it with a sincere expression of good will and joy of the season to THEM....NOT to elevate ourselves or to show them our "brand".

What we should be doing is recognizing the beliefs of that person and wishing them happiness within the context of their beliefs, NOT OURS. If I am in the home of some of my atheist friends, I won't wish them a Merry Christmas. Not because I don't want to offend them, but because I want to wish them the best of the season within the context of their belief, not mine. I want them to enjoy the blessings, happiness, rewards WHATEVER of the season according to whatever set of beliefs they might subscribe to.

I suspect there are some who wish to do the evangelical duty and use the greeting as a way to proselytize for their own religious belief. If your particular brand of religion instructs you to proselytize and you are being true to that faith, fine. Go ahead and do so but don't whine about persecution if somebody rebuffs your evangelical attempts. That is as much their choice to rebuff as it is for you to witness or recruit. But again, you're thinking of yourself and not others.

There are indeed some who go around wearing their religious beliefs on their sleeves not as a matter of being proud of their faith but to try to insinuate some sort of moral superiority over others because they believe that they are somehow or another chosen and you're not. There is no reason for that other than pure selfishness. Again, you shouldn't complain if you are shunned or rebuffed in your efforts because you have taken the unwanted step for your glorification and not honored or given true best wishes to the friend, associate, or acquaintance you insinuated your religion upon. It's not a rejection of your religion. It's a rejection of you.

The other side of the coin is equally true....that other side being that people who take offense at the carelessness of either religious or non-religious people in aggrandizing themselves as opposed to making a sincere wish for joy and happiness of the season. Those people need to consider it an INDIVIDUAL act of selfishness and not a condemnation of the entire faith. Just because some idiot comes up to me and asks (warning, silly example ahead) if I "have heard the good news of the flying spaghetti monster." I'm not going to condemn the whole faith...just the idiot who thought more of his own need to aggrandize himself and feed his own frail ego.

There is one place where I personally will ALWAYS draw the line.

I do not want any religion of any flavor endorsed by government, sanctioned by government, favored by government, taught in government schools or mandated in any classroom anywhere in this nation.

In short, I believe in the absolute separation of church and state....that put me in the same category as two radically different American Icons: Thomas Jefferson and Senator Barry Goldwater.

I have some friends who are directly involved in religious activities (they are called Ministries btw) and several of them hold the same view as I do. They don't want government mandated prayer in government meetings and they don't want government mandated prayer or religious devotions in public classrooms. To these friends I offer my sincerest thanks for their thoughtfulness and scholarship

But there are a few of my more zealous friends who still maintain that all the ills of society can be blamed on the fact that "Children can't pray in school anymore." (In fact Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry has been running an ad saying exactly that!) can pray all they want in's just that a teacher cannot force them to pray or ascribe what prayer the child can or cannot say in school. The restriction isn't against's against government inserting itself into a preferred religion or faith. Such claims are pure political propaganda; the likes of which Senator Goldwater warned the Republican Party against in 1963.

This is almost turning into a rant....and I didn't want it to be that.

I've been pretty busy lately and next week promises to be a true "hell week" for me as each unit of government tries to cram the remaining schedules of the month into the first two days of next week. I mention this because I probably won't be able to post much until after the holidays.

Soooooo...from our house to yours.......may all the joys and happiness of this season belong to you and yours and may you truly enjoy celebration of this season according to the richest traditions of your faith or belief....