August 23, 2014

#StevenSalaita is NOT a cause celebre in my book — #schadenfreude!

I had started out planning on just doing a long Facebook/G+ comment, but realized that, like Corey Robin, I was getting into blog-post length.

So, here goes.

Steven Salaita had been offered a tenure-trace position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Indeed, even though the new school year had not started yet, and the board of trustees had not officially confirmed his hiring, he was mentioned in university PR as faculty.

Until the latest Israel-Hamas violence, and a series of Tweets by him related to that, corralled with commentary (not all of which I accept in any way) here, which led the university to rescind his appointment.

And now, per my header, modern academia, as detailed by this piece at Puff Hoes, is making him into a cause celebre indeed.

First, anybody who regularly reads me knows I'm not pro-Zionist or even close to it.

But I, although I am in less than no way a Zionist, and I fully support a Palestinian state, do NOT see Steven Salaita as a cause celebre. Nor, unlike a number of academics, do I see this as a constitutional issue or anything like it. Unlike the likes of Corey Robin, I don't necessarily see this as the Israel lobby doing intellectual judo with the phrase "anti-Semitism," either.

I'll be honest that I'm kind of torn on this. His initial Tweets were fine in my world, but, when he went to wishing that West Bank Israeli settlers would "go missing," he was arguably then in hate speech territory; even if not an incitement to violence, it was directed at a particular class of people, and therefore is arguably hate speech.
You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing. — Steven Salaita (@stevesalaita) June 20, 2014
And, I would argue that his "go missing" Tweet, though not specifying how the settlers should go missing, wants them to die, if nothing else. And, it doesn't make any objections to how they might die, if that's part of them going missing. 

Per the last link before the quoted Tweet, I disagree with the defender of Salaita that at worst he was talking about kidnapping; I think at worst, he could be seen as talking about killing.

Why didn't he just say that then?
But if “‘go missing’ refers to kidnapping,” why didn’t Salaita just write “kidnap”? After all, he prefaced his statement with the warning that it was “unrefined” and described the settlers with the expletive “fucking.” Why then, after all the build-up, would he resort to a euphemism?
Erm, because he is smart enough and young enough to know that somebody might be looking at his Twitter account and he was trying to play it both ways? 

Anyway, let us consider that to be hate speech, even if not an outright incitement to violence. We know how academia, including the modern Social Justice Warrior type Left, likes its codes like that, just as much as it likes its free speech absolutism for tenure-track faculty.

Well, first, he had not been officially hired yet. Even if he had, you're not "tenured" until you cross the tenure-track finish line. So, what we have is two SJW codes colliding in a big, steaming pile of schadenfreude. And regular readers of my blog know I loves me some schadenfreude. And, I love the sound of petards hoisting in the morning!

And, that's where Puff Hoes jumps the track into the big steaming pile:
That now brings us to Friday's shocking statements. Chancellor Wise declared that "we cannot... tolerate... personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them." Yet as a matter of well-settled American constitutional law, the University of Illinois must tolerate "words... that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them." 
"Must"? Really? So, should black students then put up with every antic of differently-priced cookie sales and worse done by Young Republican groups? Should women put up with men's rights advocates telling women students that they're "dressing for rape"? I'm sure many people, even if not Brian Leiter, author of the Puff Hoes piece, would disagree.

This all said, I don't give a flying fart if Leiter is a law professor.

Now, one can argue that, as a public institution, a state university has a different standard on speech than, say, a Notre Dame. I'm not a lawyer, but I think that would be a tough sell in the court system still, especially if the state of Illinois also has hate crimes legislation, which could, at a stretch, be brought to bear on matters civil as well as criminal.

That said, per this NPR interview with labor and labor law reporter Steven Greenhouse, even in the public sector, employees' First Amendment rights aren't absolute:
However, if, you know, a government employee does something that really, you know, betrays trust or is direct insubordination or helps an enemy or endangers a nuclear power plant, then the government might say, you know, we have ample cause to fire that person for what he or she said despite, you know, the First Amendment protections of free speech.

I can do that one better.

In my day job as a newspaper editor, the community here fired a police officer for making a socioeconomically biased rant on Facebook. It violated the department's social media policy, which was part of the hiring process. The social media policy was designed to make sure police officers did not appear biased to certain classes of people — very similar to what the university can argue against Salaita.

Even then, though, such protections would apply only after official hiring. Since Salaita had never been hired, he's SOL to put it bluntly. (Related to that, he wasn't fired, because he never was hired.) As part of that, as an educated layperson, I disagree with this post; I think the Illinois case at hand is far different. Especially given that U of I had NOT supported a boycott of Israeli goods and services, I think that the idea, as alleged by some, that board approval would be a rubber stamp is questionable and that, as this layperson understands the term, promissory estoppel may not come into play. The fact that, even though Kubota lost the case at hand, it claimed that promissory estoppel is normally only a cause for defense, not for suit, means that, even with Illinois allowing it here, it's probably got a pretty high bar.

Beyond that, Saltaita's own Tweets would also offer the university additional ammunition against a promissory estoppel claim, beyond their content. The juvenility, beyond just the vulgarity, they should, if otherwise and previously unknown to the university, could be used to argue that it did not know the "full package" it was buying. And, as a non-lawyer, I think the burden of proof would be on Salaita to show that the "full package" was publicly visible and known before this. In other words, in non-legal everyday English, if this comes to a lawsuit, Salaita might need to prove that he was a doofus before midsummer 2014, and that he was a publicly known doofus.

At a minimum, it's not a slam dunk, such a case. Also speaking of slam dunks? College boards of regents don't like being assumed to be rubber stamps, either; that I know. So, legal defenders of Salaita? I think you're overassuming.

I can now also say that the University of Chicago has a current professor of law who understands constitutional law no better than Dear Leader, our constitutional law scholar president.

Whether Salaita should have been non-hired, of course, is a different question as to whether or not the U of I was in its rights to do so.  So, too, is the question of "the Israel lobby" having any influence on this decision or not.

Had he not made the "go missing" Tweet, I would be more supportive of him ethically, even if not legally. But, I think he did go a Tweet too far with that.

Follow-up thoughts

But, let's get back to the schadenfreude at the start of this. The academic Left is going to have to decide whether protected speech is more important than protected classes of people, or not, when the two collide.

Let's go further on the issue of tenure. A lot has been rightfully made about universities, both public and private, using ever more part-time adjunct faculty. However, tenure-track professordom has its own problems. Beyond a Saraita, or a Ward Churchill, whether in appearance or in reality, every large university has tenure-track professors who are lazy, who are bad teachers no matter how much or well they public, who commit sexual harassment and worse. This, like many issues in life, per Idries Shah, has more than two sides.

A third side is full-time professors, without them necessarily being tenured. Now, part of that is removing the stigma from being non-tenured. Related to that, part of the solution may be extending the number of years it takes to get tenured.

Another issue is that of "privilege" (forgive me for sounding like an SJW!) and the First Amendment. Academics (setting aside the public vs private schools issue) and journalists (I'm one, so I can speak) often seem to assume they have a special level of First Amendment protection that nobody else does. And, it seems that the higher one goes up  the academic or journalistic ladder, the more common such views are.

Well, other than the government being differentiated from the private sector, last I checked, no class of persons, including no class of employees, had a special privilege to the First Amendment. And I may blog in more depth on this later. Actually, I'm pretty damned sure I will. I think this is part of why certain strands of upper-tier academics and journalists irritate not just man-on-the-street wingnuts, but right-wing talking heads. And, the irritation isn't 100 percent wrong.

Also, it's clear that this issue is about as politicized as the reproductive choice movement, with both "ends" having little room for centrists of some sort. I guess that, in one sense, that's good; despite some academic liberals claiming that U of I's change of mind shows the power of Zionism, it's more complex than that.

It's also an issue of how many younger people, even ones paper-smart enough to be offered tenure-track jobs in academia, aren't necessarily real-world-smart, at least not when it comes to the issue of electronic "devices," the social media world, etc. And I have blogged about that before.

My latest resume – online

I'm still looking to move from journalism to other fields, preferably something like public relations and other writing work in the nonprofit sector at a place whose ideas and ideals agree with mine. A full copy of this is available as a Word document to anyone interested.

117 Lakeview Drive, Apt. 104
Marlin, TX 76661
936-419-1539 (cell, primary)

SUMMARY: Whether you need crisp, clear, concise news releases, in-depth presentations, branding or similar writing, brainstorming and idea generation, web and social media outreach, a PowerPoint or public speaking, I have the experience you need — award-winning experience.

PROFESSIONAL SKILLS: I have than 10 years of award-winning editing, writing and design experience, including researching information, analyzing and defining needs for story focus, creating and selling ideas via persuasive informational writing, managing and multitasking projects. I have additional experience with website content management and the use of various social media. Among my other skills and experience are desktop publishing, photography and photo editing, volunteer marketing and public relations.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Persuasive communications: Editorials work — I helped defeat a school bond issue shortly before the housing bubble hit, saving suburban Dallas taxpayers major headaches and money. Public speaking: Whether it’s serious, straight or a bit of both, I hit the style of speaking needed for an audience and event. Analysis and Research: I have conducted fact-finding, research and conclusions for detailed investigative news stores; as part of that, I know what facts are important and what are not, and what facts capture attention and what don’t. New Media: I have both personal and professional experience and thoughts to offer. A Tweet — that’s a newspaper headline in new format. Facebook involves branding, customer service, marketing and more. Blogging and in-depth website posts offer ways to communicate in detail.

• InDesign • Photoshop • Quark • Office suite  • Web content  • Social media  • Video

Editor and Publisher, September 2012 — Marlin Democrat, Marlin, Texas
• Do-it-all small-town publisher — editing, desktop publishing, managing bookkeeper and ad salesperson, plus selling ads myself, both with regular customers and an occasional cold call.

Managing editor, Dec. 2011-Sept. 2012 — Marble Falls Highlander, Marble Falls, Texas
• Marketed and reported arts, entertainment and news as editor of a community lifestyles publication as well as a semiweekly newspaper, managing two staff writers, two other editors

Copy Editor, September 2009–December 2011 — Odessa American, Odessa, Texas
• Led editorial office as Sunday slot editor      • Was part of teamwork winning state awards
• Helped surpass profit-share goals      • Helped improve daily success for on-time publication

Managing editor, September 2007- July 2009 — Today Newspapers, Duncanville, Texas
• Started blog, Twitter account for group of four newspapers  • Improved social media use
• Hired and managed staff writers        • Edited and managed company website content
• Edited, updated website content        • Marketed newspaper operations to public

Managing Editor, January 2007- September 2007 — Navasota Examiner, Navasota, Texas
• Edited and managed editorial staff, freelancers                     • Edited, updated website content       

Page 2

Editor, later also assistant managing editor, April 2000 to January 2007
Today Newspapers, DeSoto, Texas; contact information above
• Assisted in redesign of newspaper     • Improved publication timelines
• Won numerous state awards              • Named top regional journalist

Previous experience:
Managing editor, weekly newspaper: • Moved paper from deficit to profit
City editor-reporter, daily paper: • Wrote feature and news stories on a daily basis.
College adjunct instructor: • Taught English, business writing, sociology, psychology
Proofreader, book publisher: • Proofread nonfiction books, with occasional copy editing work
Intern minister • Supervised work included teaching, religious instruction, counseling

• North and East Texas Press Association — Journalist of the Year, weekly division, 2005.
• Texas Press Association Better Newspaper Contests — First place, sweepstakes: 2002, 2005; first, general excellence, 2004, 2009; first, page design, 2002, 2003; first, news writing, 2002; first, editorials, 2005
• North and East Texas Press Association contests — first, editorials, 1999; editorials, news, special sections, 2001; columns, 2002, general excellence, headlines, sports 2005; (partial list).
• Texas Press Association, Better Newspaper Contest committee, 2006.

Master’s Degree
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.
•Trained in administration, public speaking, teaching, church marketing, and counseling.
• Started new class by petition drive, and developed syllabus, objectives for course.
• Served on student senate.

Bachelor of Arts
St. John’s College, Winfield, Kan.
• Elected student body president, 1983-84.
• Elected to three years of student senate.

• Diversity and conflict resolution training from Greater Dallas Community Relations Commission
• Board of directors, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce (ex officio)
• Member, Lancaster Human Relations Commission, city of Lancaster; elected chairman 2003
• Volunteer work and leadership positions, various volunteer groups

Writing, design, photo clips:

Your #GregAbbott movie text of the week is #CPRIT

"Thank" Greg Abbott for interrupting your movie.
As a number of people know, Greg Abbott hit a new barf-inducing low a few weeks back of asking supporters to text him from movies.
In a new twist, Abbott is taking his campaign to the movies. He is running an ad in two dozen movie theaters across the state, playing on every screen a film is being shown. The ad asks moviegoers to text the word “FREEDOM” to the campaign. The effort is aimed at collecting information the campaign can use to identify and boost turnout.
This combines three barf factors of the modern movie-going experience:
1. Ads before movies;
2. Political advertising in general today;
3. People using cellphones at movies.

That said, Wendy Davis' new campaign ad, tied with Rick Perry's seeming corruption-connected indictment for trying to stifle the Travis County DA's Public Integrity Unit and its looking at his "pay to play" on the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas and more, is good timing.

So, obviously, your movie text of the week to Abbott is #CPRIT.

Davis needs to do a longer version of the ad, a one-minute version, to tie this to Perry's indictment.

And, again, non-Texans, pseudoliberal division, this crony capitalism is well known among Tea Party types as well as real liberals.

There's more of that, in detail, here:
“Looking into the state and federal campaign contributions made to the five politicians who have the most influence on the decisions made by the oversight committee (Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Comptroller Susan Combs), one would find many instances of contributions made by the CEO’s, presidents, owners, board members and other relevant employees of organizations who received CPRIT grants,” the report noted.
And, this wasn't chump change:

“Members of these groups, whose combined haul was over $688 million in CPRIT funds, donated over $28 million to campaigns of those five politicians who all had a say in which groups received funding,” the report stated.
Nor is the largesse limited to CPRIT. The Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund are also "in play."

So, Wendy O. Williams needs to step it up. That ad is "nice," but it could be a whole lot more. Stop pulling your punches.

August 22, 2014

#Schadenfreude is a waiver-wire bitch, Orioles fans

Manny Machado, limping. / Photo via NBC Sports
After the season-ending knee injury to breakout Angels starter Garrett Richards, the Baltimore Orioles, per Peter Gammons, "are claming everyone," i.e., waivers on any pitcher being run through the wire who has half a fastball, including Bartolo Colon and Scott Feldman.

Well, if Matt Shoemaker can continue on his recent success, Hector Santiago pick it up, and C.J. Wilson start to earn his big free agent contract, the Angels, who have been lucky with starters this year until now, may not be too back off. (That said, Wilson's gotten a lot worse since the All-Star break, but Santiago's been steady and Shoemaker has improved.)


Now, it's time for payback for the Orioles, too.

The O's standout third baseman, Manny Machado, is done for the year with a knee problem, congenital not injury-related, it seems, that requires surgery.

And, the Orioles' in-house options to replace him, brave Bawlmore fans aside, are as bad as the Angels' local options for a pitcher.

Right now, they're trying the "mysteriously" "regressed" (read into that whatever you want, I'm surprised allegations aren't thicker) 1B Chris Davis there, even though he's played less than 80 games there in his career. Other "options" include Ryan Flaherty, who is below both the Mendoza Line of old-time baseball fame for Mario Mendoza and the Kozma Line of my modern sabermetric invention to "honor" Pete Kozma.

Other Orioles options are no better. ESPN lists Cord Phelps, who has played less than 5 games at third and less than 100 MLB games overall as the next option. Why ESPN says that, I don't know.

Utility man Steve Pearce is definitely the better option with the bat, but he's only played 10 games at third himself. They could keep Davis at third, but Pearce hasn't played a lot at first, either.

In any case, defense will also definitely drop off.

As for the schadenfreude? The Yankees, Royals, Tigers, M's, Jays, and Indians all have legitimate, "ethical" reasons to gobble up any infielder run through the waiver wire right now. Have fun in Charm City.

But yet, at NBC's blog on the news, Oriole fans are delusional enough to think they're going to get Adrian Beltre off the waiver wire. Man, I can be a Cards fan without being a stereotypical idiotic "homer" like that.

I hadn't realized that he'd already cleared waivers, per my comments over there, not checking that, just because I was primarily focused on pointing out how stupid all the Orioles fans are who thought they could get an easy deal on him, ignoring that he'd never clear that many waiver hurdles.

If the fans commenting at NBC are representative of O's fans' general intelligence, you deserve every bit of schadenfreude you're getting.

And, as for the one commenter who called me out for "busting a dream"? It wasn't even a dream, it was pure fantasy. No reality basis to it. Beyond that, many of the same Oriole fans were surely chortling over their own management blocking the Angels from waiver-wire pitching pick-ups.

And, with that, we've moved from schadenfreude to 100-proof hypocrisy.

Still looking for work!!!

See my mini-resume....

212 W. Wintergreen Road, #2073
DeSoto, TX 75115
936-419-1539 (cell); 972-223-7111 (home)
E-mail: socraticgadflyAThotmailDOTcom

OBJECTIVE: A communications position using my skills and experience in writing, editing, desktop publishing, management, public speaking, and analytical and synthetic thinking.

BACKGROUND: More than 10 years award-winning editing and writing; also marketing, public speaking, page layout/design, photography/editing, research. Strong analytical abilities.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Persuasive communications: Editorial writing helped pass city and school district bonds, 2004-05, defeated other school bond, Lancaster. Public speaking: Trained in public speaking and speech writing; have spoken on behalf of newspaper employers to various organizations. Creativity: Have written opinion columns in haiku and other poetic formats; have created editorial cartoons in Photoshop. News: Pollution investigative journalism led to company CEO being terminated; other investigative work connected to Centers for Disease Control tracking a medical syndrome to a Golden Corral restaurant, already closed after reporting on sub-par health inspections. Uncovered newly-constructed high school with non-lockable classrooms and cosmetology classroom in violation of state standards. management: Partial oversight of four news editors and other staff as assistant managing editor, Today Newspapers; managed staff writer(s), Navasota, Lancaster; managed freelancers, Navasota, Jacksboro.

North and East Texas Press Association — Journalist of the Year, weekly division, 2005.
Texas Press Association Better Newspaper Contests — First place, sweepstakes: 2002, 2005; first, general excellence, 2004, 2009; first, page design, 2002, 2003; first, news writing, 2002; first, editorials, 2005;

Diversity and conflict resolution training from Greater Dallas Community Relations Commission
Board of directors, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce (ex officio)
Member, Lancaster Human Relations Commission, city of Lancaster; elected chairman 2003
Volunteer work and leadership positions, various support groups

#SamHarris dives deeper into the empty pool of faux #Buddhism

Without explicitly seeing the "Buddhism is just a psychology" comment from his "End of Faith," that appears to be part of the general thesis of Sam Harris' new book, "Waking Up," which gets a long overview at his site.

For example:
One can practice most techniques of Buddhist meditation or the method of self-inquiry of Advaita and experience the advertised changes in one’s consciousness without ever believing in the law of karma or in the miracles attributed to Indian mystics. 

One can, but that's not true to the spirit of Buddhism. In fact, riffing on "The Lotus and the Robot" by Arthur Koestler, Sammy undercuts himself:
While now generally viewed as a system of physical exercises designed to increase a person’s strength and flexibility, in its traditional context hatha yoga is part of a larger effort to manipulate “subtle” features of the body unknown to anatomists. 
On the flip side, Harris then says he won't entertain such discussions about traditional Eastern belief. Well, sure, if I use a chainsaw as an ersatz scalpel, I can call any religion a philosophy, Obama a liberal, or other mush.

Besides, contra this:
One can speak about Buddhism shorn of its miracles and irrational assumptions. The same cannot be said of Christianity or Islam. 
I can practice Stoicism out of Judaism, via Ecclesiastes, or even, just barely, some sort of pre-Rawls moral philosophy from Christianity via the Sermon on the Mount. Also, Harris ignores the likes of Reform Jews and Unitarians.

Of course, it's full of other stereotypes about Buddhism, namely that Buddhists are never violent in the name of religion. And that is incredibly untrue.

The 969 Movement in Burma is murderously Islamophobic; more here. And Bodu Bala Sena is an Islamophobic movement in Sri Lanka.

In addition, contra Harris, Buddhists have even persecuted one another for "heresy." Hindus and Taoists have persecuted Buddhists. Say what you will otherwise about Chris Hitchens, but he gets the reality of Eastern religions right in "God is Not Great," devoting one chapter to Eastern religions. Buddhism and other Eastern religions are also, in their way, as anti-intellectual as traditional Western ones, and, "detachment" aside, as capitalistic as Western ones.

Unfortunately, Harris has read Hitchens, without comprehending, understanding or accepting:
I will have something to say in this book about many of the things that might have justified Hitch’s opprobrium, but the general thrust of his commentary here was all wrong. Several Eastern traditions are exceptionally empirical and exceptionally wise, and therefore merit the exceptionalism claimed by their adherents.

Harris' chainsaw at work again. 

And it gets worse.
And when engaged as a set of hypotheses by which to investigate the mind and deepen one’s ethical life, Buddhism can be an entirely rational enterprise.
The first claim, about "investigate the mind"? Tosh. It's not rational at all, because those hypotheses are built on metaphysical claims. Above all, they're built on an explicitly anti-naturalistic stance that not only goes against philosophical naturalism, but also against the methodological naturalism that underlies the scientific method.

In short, because it's a LONG piece, I'll summarize by saying that Harris seems to be doing a long-winded, attempted but not succeeded version of what many a first-generation Western Buddhist convert does, and that's in ultimately making this statement:

"Item or Action X is not 'real' Buddhism."

Combine that, the chainsaw as scalpel, and the fallback on ineffability (which Harris seems to circumspectly hint at in spots), and sure, "Buddhism is just a philosophy" or "Buddhism is just a psychology."

As for the idea that it takes any religious, or even "spiritual," discipline to reach certain mental states? More tosh. I've "gone deep" myself in self-hypnosis. Deep enough to "see" spiraling mandalas. All with purely Western, secular mental techniques. If one wants to read more along this line, without Harris' mumbo-jumbo, I recommend John Horgan's "Rational Mysticism."

Meanwhile, it gets worse:
In one sense, the Buddhist concept of enlightenment really is just the epitome of “stress reduction”—and depending on how much stress one reduces, the results of one’s practice can seem more or less profound. 
What pablum. 

And, I've covered some of this in a more generic sense here, just recently.

More scary is the hypercapitalist side.

Harris talks about having journal-type exercises in the book. Can a workbook be next? CDs? DVDs? He is offering lectures, after all.

It is reminding me of a less intellectual, though vaguely similar new book, "10% Happier," in which the author also offers a "franchise" of additional tools, all at the right price, to help with meditation, etc.

The perils of Obama vs LBJ and Congressional Democrats

I'm going to basically thumbs-up, with brief commentary, two pieces by friend Perry.

The first is from the last part of the header. It's about how Congressional Democrats will run with about anything and anyone with a D after the name or idea — as long as the name isn't Obama.

When you're giving the professorial version of the cold shoulder to as valiant of an ally as Harry Reid, it's both bad and sad. It's even worse when, in this case, he's fighting for confirmation of ambassadors that Obama nominated.

I saw this as part of his MO long ago. So did one chronicler of his first-term White House years, Ron Susskind in "Confidence Men." The man is so anti-political in some ways that, other than his hubris that his mellifluous voice could change how American politics works, or perhaps a bucket list that had "first black president" on it, or some Freudian wish-fulfillment for his mom, I have no damned idea why he even ran for the office.

Hell, for all I know, Obama doesn't have a clear idea himself; that wouldn't surprise me either.

The second is about why isn't Dear Leader like LBJ?

Perry riffs on a good column by Matt Bai, who in turn riffs extensively on LBJ biographer Robert Caro.

I agree that most Dems don't want LBJ's jerkitude, while a lot of Republicans like that. That said beyond (as a political operative, not political stances, where he rightly dings both) unfavorably comparing Dear Leader to Hillary Clinton, we can have somebody tougher than Dear Leader in a lot of ways without being a jerk.

And so, with that, as I told Perry, why isn't Obama at least a bit more like LBJ?

Because, to riff on an old LBJ phrase, Obama put his pecker in someone else's pocket long ago.

August 21, 2014

Obama and war hawks on #ISIS vs reality-based Democrats

In light of the brutal murder of James Foley by the Islamic State in Iraq (portions of) and Syria (the semi-failed state of), US President Barack Obama is now hinting at upping involvement in Iraq.

A bit more detail here; the administration is saying troops are a possibility. "Under 300" sounds not too bad, right? But, in reality, it sounds like the "drip, drip, drip" of how we sent more and more to Vietnam.

And pressure to keep escalating that drip, drip, drip is certainly possible. It's very possible when you've got warhawk nuts like Sen. John McCain (R-Airplane Crashes) egging you on, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-I Might Be Gay).

Fortunately, at least one House Democrat, and one with a bit of say-so in matters, is saying "hold on":
“We shouldn’t allow this horrible act to provoke us into doing things that are counterproductive,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on CNN’s "New Day." “There’s nothing ISIS would like more than having us reintroduce ground troops into Iraq, for example.”
 He said the U.S. “had to know that when we get involved with airstrikes, that ISIS is going to strike back at us in any way they can.”

Couldn't have said it better myself.

As for the ISIS brutality level? We're just upset because they might cut off oil, and because we've officially labeled them terrorists. That's in contradistinction to our ally in the War on Terra against Afghanstan, Islam Karimov, president of Uzbekhistan, who has boiled alive political opponents.

On the other hand, if you take Rick Perry seriously (and why?) ISIS has already crossed the border. As in the US border. Last I heard, Perry was sending the National Guard to the Travis County DA's office.

Convert or pay a tax! Muslims ding Christians in Iraq, or .... Amerika?

Sounds horrible, doesn't it? ISIS telling Christians in Iraq that they must either convert to Islam or pay a tax.

A few counterpoints.

First, this is nothing new. Islamic states have done this since the Umayyad Caliphate.

Second, late medieval Christian states that allowed Muslims to remain, and to stay unconverted, had burdens of their own.

Third, and per the last part of the post?

Not to go too much Gnu Atheist, but tax deductions for religious groups, from state sales and property tax ones to all religious contributions, not just for their actual charitable work, being deductible from federal income taxes, could be considered a tax of sorts on secularists, could it not?

Survey says ... yes.

You can Google elsewhere for the totals, or I can tell you that it's $71 billion with a b in religious tax deductions per year.

And, while, theoretically, making that up elsewhere falls on us all, it really falls on secularists who are almost as small a minority in the US as Christians are in Iraq.
"The issue of religious tax preferment is especially relevant now because the number of Americans living outside any religious tradition continues to grow," said Tom Flynn, Free Inquiry's editor. "That underscores the unfairness of taxing all Americans to subsidize religious institutions that only some Americans utilize."

The most ridiculous part of that money is the $41 billion for capital gains exemptions.

Also, given the way the Catholic Church has worked to shelter its assets behind various walls, including tax-related ones, to try to avoid paying out money in sexual abuse lawsuits, besides dinging us secularists, there's a fair chunk of ethics issues involved.

So, secularlists?  Convert, or pay the tax that's not being paid by the religious.

Of course, as this ginned-up lawsuit over bald eagle feathers shows, wingnuts within Christianity always believe the First Amendment doesn't really apply to them.