Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obama Palin Shoe Shining Email Could Get Colorado State Worker In Trouble


I would hesitate to use the "worker" to describe the person who forwarded the email. If there is any "bright" spot in this, it is that the offence took place in Colorado, a state that Obama carried in 2008, and not in one of the southern red states. It shows that racial stereotypes are not the sole property of the South. Of course, if this had happened here in my home state of South Carolina, not only would no one be surprised, but there probably wouldn't have been enough outrage for it make the news. Despite protestations to the contrary, I would posit that most of the opposition to the President's "policies" are race-based. Nothing goes better with a Tea Party than white bread.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prominent South Carolina Conservative Offers Support For Graham


Lindsey has nothing to worry about in SC. He won't be back on the ballot until 2014. Sadly, he's the closest thing to a Democratic senator that we have at the moment. DeMint does have token opposition for his 2010 campaign, but given the fact that average IQ of SC voters is lower than the average November temperature, I don't see much hope of DeMint departing.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Christian Broadcasting Network Warns Against 'Demonic' Halloween Candy


I attend a very small Presbyterian church. Last Sunday during the 'children's sermon', the pastor told the three children that sugar was a poison. The Sunday School teacher had given each child a bag of candy that morning. Too bad they didn't get the memo about the witches sooner, it could have been really interesting!!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, October 19, 2009

Keith Bardwell Explains Refusal To Perform Interracial Marriage (VIDEO)


This is the racist attitude: "I'm sorry that I offended the couple, but I did help them and tell them who to go to... I don't see what the problem is now."



I understand him being concerned about the children not being accepted, one of them might become President and end up not being accepted by nearly a third of the country. But that aside, his ignorance is on display with his assumption that an "apology" makes everything alright and leaves him free to repeat the insult over and over again.



He is right about one thing, there is no problem now. The happy couple, in exposing this buffoon, is simply returning his "tell them who to go to" favor by enlisting the support of a few million of their fellow citizens to tell him "where to go."
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License By Louisiana Judge


I have a daughter who is in an interracial relationship in Louisiana and this type of stupidity really burns me. I keep hoping that someday the "deep south" will join the civilized world, but apparently not much has changed here in the last 60 years. The only nominal change that has taken place is that the Dixiecrats are now the GOP. Apparently it hasn't dawned on this doofus who the President is, or that his "legal" underpinning was stripped away 40 years ago.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, October 12, 2009

Insurers Mount Attack Against Health Reform


Sounds like a veiled threat to me. In light of that, let's pass a single payer plan and cut the blackmailers out of the picture entirely.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anita Dunn: Fox News An Outlet For GOP Propaganda


Hear, hear! The White House has called it like it is. Fox News is aptly named. The fox, in fable, is portrayed as sly and deceitful, and Fox News has been sly and deceitful since its founding, a true reflection of the head of it's news division, Roger Ailes. Ailes was one of the architects of the "Reagan Coalition" which completed its coup in 1980, and the god-father of the rabid partisanship that has spoiled political discourse in this country and weakened our republic. Fox News is not, nor has it ever been, a "news" channel. It is a propaganda network, not so much for the Republican Party as it is for the Neo-Conservative movement.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize Inspires Conservative Outrage And Confusion


Sour grapes make bitter whine...



Maybe those whose p@nties are in a wad over this should follow their own advice from a few years back... "If you hate this country and its [duly elected] president so much, why don't you just leave?" I'll gladly help them pack.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Joe Wilson Election: Chances Damaged By Outburst


I would like to believe that there is a chance that Wilson will be turned out at the next cycle, but, honestly, I believe it's a long shot. His district and the sixth district (Rep. James Clyburn) were carefully gerrymandered to isolate the more democratic areas (6th) and create another solid republican district. Prior to the last gerrymandering, SC had 3 democrats and 3 republicans in it's house delegation. The 2nd district is no accident, it was intended to be solidly republican. Wilson enjoys solid majority support in his home district and while the race may be closer this time, 50.1 - 49.9 is still a win for Wilson. Things may be different when the districts are reapportioned after the 2010 census, but with the GOP in charge of the reapportionment, I don't expect many changes.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obama: Race Not The "Overriding Issue" (VIDEO)


The key word the President used is "overriding." Is race the overriding issue? When this great nation is taken as a whole the answer would be probably not. If you focus certain regions, for example, parts of NC, most of SC, GA, AL and MS (chosen from my personal experience), no doubt race plays a significant role, but it's the same subtle racism the GOP has used to successfully build a majority in these areas and it's not going away.

The overriding issue is that the GOP has come to represent overgrown children who tantrum when they don't get their way. To expect them to enter into dialogue is naive... they simply are incapable, from what I have seen, of entertaining any idea save their own, and will reject their own idea if it's presented by a Democrat. Limbaugh set the agenda in January, "I want to see this president fail." Nothing has changed or will change. If making accommodations to appease them is the path he chooses, he will fail.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sanford On Wilson: It's Time To Move On


One should keep in mind that for Governor Sanford, moving on means keeping the scandal in the public eye with his "apology tour" of the state. It would be possible to move past the whole sordid mess, if weren't attending every Rotary Club meeting in the state to "apologize."

He's been locked away in the Governor's mansion for seven years (except for a few trips to Argentina) and (fortunately) hasn't bothered to get off of his fanny to promote his own agenda. As a result, he hasn't been able to implement his plans even though his party controls both houses of the legislature. Now that his "base" is calling for his resignation, he starts campaigning to keep the job he hasn't done for seven years.

If Rep. Wilson follows Sanford's "move on" example, he'll be offering his same passive-aggressive non-apology daily from now until next November.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rush Limbaugh: "Obama's America - White Kids Get Beat Up With The Black Kids Cheering" (AUDIO)


At the risk of overstating the obvious, Rush has no idea what happens on a typical school bus. I rode a bus to school for 12 years in rural South Carolina over thirty-five years ago, riding an hour each way most of the time. Fights occasionally broke out. It happened when everyone on the bus was white and it happened after the schools and buses were integrated. When fights broke out, some cheered. This has nothing to do with "Obama's America." The only difference between "Obama's America" and the America of times past is that now you have a bunch of whiney-assed loud mouths wailing about how much worse things are now that the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has more melanin in his skin than previous occupants. What a bunch of crap.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Graham: Obama Speech A "Disaster," Public Option Dead (VIDEO)


Obviously he's been counselled to follow the talking points, because he was confused during the speech about when he was supposed to clap. It warms my heart to hear him embrace Joe Wilson's apology. Only South Carolina could elect these clowns. I can't decide whether Wilson, Sanford and DeMint are the Three Stooges or whether, along with Graham, they are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, September 11, 2009

SC GOP Joins Lawmakers Asking Sanford To Resign


The problem with Gov. Sanford goes deeper than the Argentine affair (which he can't seem to stop talking about). The bigger issue, now, is the trips he took on the private planes of supporters (or "personal friends" as he refers to them, though several are people he met only after he either began campaigning for governor or became governor) and failed to disclose. It is the appearance of "quid pro quo" from his efforts to "save the state money" that have so many of his own party (including 31 of 46 county GOP chairmen and 61 of 72 GOP state representatives) calling for his resignation.



Frankly, as a Democrat, I hope he stays in office... Everyday he remains helps increase the chance that our next governor will be a Democrat.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rep. Joe Wilson Yells Out "You Lie!" During Obama Health Care Speech (VIDEO)


Before tonight, I thought it could not be more difficult to be a proud South Carolinian. I was wrong. Thank you Rep. Wilson, for proving that Gov. Sanford, Sen. DeMint, Sen. Graham and the horse lover from Horry County were not aberrations. Pity us. The crazy tree is in full bloom here. One thing is for certain, I will not support Rep. Wilson's son in his race for state attorney general.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, September 6, 2009

GOP Health Care Road Show: McConnell, McCain


I'm not sure how we could go any slower on enacting some sort of national universal healthcare. The idea was first put forth over one hundred years ago. We have dawdled and studied and studied and dawdled off and on since the first bill was introduced in 1915. While other countries acted, we did nothing. We are where we are today because we have done nothing to substantially increase the access of our people to quality healthcare.



We trail the industrialized world now in available and affordable healthcare and in education. The only category in which we lead the world is unmitigated arrogance. With leaders like these taking charge, we'll continue to provide the best the nineteenth century has to offer.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Education Secretary: Furor Over Obama Speech 'Silly' (VIDEO)


I can understand why many parents are afraid to let their kids hear the president tell children to take their education seriously and to take responsibility now for making sure that we all have a brighter future.



The parents who oppose this are the same type who parade their ignorance on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" and lose. If their children take their education seriously, they'll be smarter than their parents once they've passed third grade, and that could lead to disastrous results for the G.O.P.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Roy Sekoff Challenges Congressman On GOP's Criticism Of Obama School Speech


The sad fact as I see it from where I sit, the opposition to our president is less than thinly veiled racism. The strength of the GOP now lies in the states of the former Confederacy, which, prior to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, were solidly democratic. When the GOP began to openly pander to white evangelical Christians, the transformation of the GOP from "the party of Lincoln" to "the party of Trent Lott" became complete. It is no coincidence that all the talking heads bashing the president are white nor is it a coincidence that the vast majority of Fox News viewers are white. Anything the Presidents attempts will be met with stiff opposition, not just because of his party, but also because of his mixed race status.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

John Ashcroft Can Be Sued For Post-9/11 Detentions, Court Rules


It amazes me that after all the previous administration did to harm the constitution and to stain the overall concept of fair elections and the rule of law, that anti-Obama protesters accuse him of shredding the constitution. Ashcroft is one of many who should held accountable for their actions.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Franken Calms Down Health Care Opponents (VIDEO)


We could certainly use an Al Franken representing South Carolina in the Senate. Of course, that would require more voters to have IQs exceeding their hat size, and based on all available data, that won't be happening any time soon.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gay Blogger: Andre Bauer, South Carolina Lt. Governor, A Closeted Homosexual


This is South Carolina... Our closet has been straining the hinges for years. Wink and nod, it's all good.

Am I surprised that our governor would stoop so low? No, not at all.

It's too bad that we are so backward that gays can't be in the open without negative consequences.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The "Intolerance" Party? GOP Strategists Worry Ideologues Are Bad For The Party's Future


Having spent 20 of the last 30 years bitterly opposed to what was happening in my country, I have to admit that I get some pleasure watching the radically wrong publicly self-destruct. I hope the denizens of the GOP enjoy their time in the political wilderness as much as I enjoyed mine.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wheelchair-Bound Woman Shouted Down At New Jersey Health Care Town Hall (VIDEO)


As the incidence of bad behavior has ramped up at "town hall" meetings this summer, the paid but uncontrolled opponents bussed in by the health insurance lobby has unwittingly turned the tide in the debate. Not only will health insurance reform pass, but it will pass with a viable public option, thanks to antics such as this.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cheney In 2012? Some Key GOPers Aren't Kidding


This could be the news Democrats have longed for since the Reagan years. Proof that the ersatz Reagan Revolution has run its course. If the best hope the GOP has hangs on the pre-Alzheimer ranting of a weak-hearted criminal, then the Grand Old Party is truly irrelevant.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, August 29, 2009

South Carolina GOP "Disappointed," "Angry," And "Disgusted" WIth Gov. Sanford


The SC House GOP caucus would like for Sanford to resign before he drags the rest of the the party down with him. Their hope is that South Carolinians will not wake up to realize that the problem is not just Sanford, but the SC GOP as well.

For all intents and purposes, South Carolina did not have a Republican party until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. SC's GOP has come to be viewed as the "white people's party." In much of SC, if you are white, you are assumed to be a Republican.

Sanford made a point of identifying himself and those who agree with him as the "true Republicans" referring to detractors in his party as RINO's (Republican In Name Only). Now for the first time in years, there is a slim chance that the GOP stranglehold on SC state politics may be loosened. The longer Sanford stays in office, the greater that chance grows.

Here's hoping Sanford stays in... Every day he remains helps SC Democrats.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, August 28, 2009

Race-Based Protests Directed At Obama Go Beyond Health Care Town Halls


There's an attorney who forwards email to me, and much of it is hate-filled, racist, anti-Obama stuff. I spend a lot of time shaking my head and hitting the delete button. The only reason I glance at most of it is so that I don't get so insulated from the hate that is my corner of South Carolina that I forget how important it is to be a vocal and public voice for reason, sanity and tolerance.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, August 27, 2009

McCain Evicts Angry Woman From Town Hall


It's a little late for McCain to try to rein in the fear. He should have done more of that when he was stoking the fires last fall. Maybe had he chosen a running mate who was competent and less of a 'playmate,' or maybe if he had some solutions to offer instead of fear and his worn out proposal for a tax credit to buy insurance (which assumes that most people would be able to scrape up $5000 to buy the insurance up front to qualify for the credit... a cost that is greater than two months take home pay for many uninsured families) the outcome of the election would have been different and his position would actually matter.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Limbaugh Congratulates Himself On Kennedy Death Prediction


Congratulations Rush. Of course, a broken analog clock displays the correct time twice a day. You've still got a long way to go to meet that standard.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Death Panel Myth Creator Resigns From Medical Board


A little late to avoid the conflict of interest. Besides the damage is already done. A lie, repeated often enough, first begins to sound plausible, then is accepted as truth.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Budget Buster: Kent Conrad's Long Opposition To The Public Option


A public option is a must for any meaningful reform. I'm covered under a BCBS plan. Premiums have increased over the last 10 years at a rate that is simply not sustainable. A public OPTION is all about giving people a choice. As it stands, many workers have no choice because they make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but are employed/s­elf-employ­ed by small businesses who do not provide health benefits and the cost of obtaining coverage is prohibitive. Frankly, if I had the OPTION of choosing a government sponsored plan, I would.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sarah Palin Resigning as Alaska's Governor


catch a falling star... now the name mentioned as the top of the gop ticket [with the illustrious sc governor sanford as number two] announces her resignation, while the sc governor is shovelling dirt into his political grave. very interesting. there has to be more to the story... we'll see how this unfolds.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

guinea pig... [update 2]

the last couple of weeks have been up and down as far as fluency is concerned. i started bottle three of the study meds on a good day. as a matter of fact i had a couple of very good days to begin this phase of the study. i have had some 'bad' days though, and i suppose that is the real test of the effectiveness of the medication.

if i were to conjecture, i would say that the doseage did not increase with bottle three. i have had none of the tell tale side effects. i did have a few 'bad' days in the course of the last couple of weeks, however, the bad days on the 'medication' were no worse than the 'bad' days when i was using the speech-easy. i am a little surprised that i haven't heard from my study coordinator in the just over a month. i thought i would be hearing from her again proir to my visit there next monday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Minnesota Decision: Supreme Court Rules For Franken, Coleman Concedes (VIDEO)


if franken had been a republican, limbaugh, hannity, o'reilly and beck [the four foxmen of the apocalypse] would have hammered the democrats incessantly over their obstructionist tactics that denied minnesotans their rightful representation in the senate. too bad democrats are deficient in vitriol. it's the only thing an undereducated electorate understands.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, June 29, 2009

Madoff Sentenced To 150 Years In Prison


the cliche 'time heals all wounds' may have some merit here, though no amount of 'prison' time will restore the stolen funds. i have no sympathy for maddoff.

i heard something on npr about the maximum 'claims' payout to those who were defrauded being 500k. my heart goes out to the charities [and those the charities would have benefited] and 'smaller' investors [i.e. those who had less to lose.].
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Spiritual Adviser: "Darkness" Gripped Sanford


quoting the article out of order...

Besides Bible readings and prayer, the Culbertsons stage what they call a "date night," where spouses interview each other. Culbertson said the boot camp is "not a marriage course, but marriages benefit from it."

The Sanfords "passed" the Culbertsons' course with flying colors. A week later, Jenny Sanford asked her husband to leave their home.

and a week after that, governor sanford flies to argentina after jenny warned him not to go there. ...remind me not to sign up for cubby's course.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, June 22, 2009

oxymoron

i started the last post with this statement -- 'i have long considered the conservative christian designation to be an oxymoron.' at that point i was distracted and wandered off down another path. let me return to that thought and explain why i consider conservative christian to be a contradiction in terms.

definitions of conservative contain phrases such as: resistant to change; cautious; a person who is reluctant to accept changes and new ideas; unimaginatively conventional; people who generally like to uphold current conditions and oppose changes.

resistance to change is inexorably linked the notion of conservatism, yet, to be genuinely christian without experiencing fundamental change is an impossibility. sadly, in the minds of many, the idea of change as a part of what it means to be christian is noticeably absent. popular culture seeks a christian faith that reinforces its image of itself.

one critique i would offer regarding the weakness of contemporary christian faith is that it has as its foundation the teaching of paul rather than the teaching of jesus. this is significant because paul was a pharisee, i.e., a member of the class that jesus criticized harshly. paul, as far as we know, never met jesus. his 'encounter with christ' was a vision [an hallucination] on his way to damascus.

this is important because many of the 'fundamental' doctrines of the 'christian' faith are based on the teaching of saul of tarsus [paul] rather than jesus of nazareth. the understanding of 'christ' in contemporary christianity is filtered through the lens of paul the pharisee.

jesus criticized the pharisees for their focus on ritual, tradition and outward appearance. jesus taught saying 'you have heard it said... but i say to you...' turning tradition on its head and encouraging independent thought. the teachings of jesus are focused on the deeper foundational message of the hebrew scriptures rather than the literal 'letter of the law.'

paul preached a universal application of pharisaism, not the teachings of jesus, becuase paul had no first hand exposure to jesus' teaching. granted, the teachings of jesus that are available to us at this point were not recorded by eyewitnesses as jesus spoke, nor are they eyewitness accounts, but there is a distinct voice or timbre to the teachings that does not resonate from the writing of paul.

paul, for example, condemns homosexuality and a variety of other 'sins' whereas jesus consistently demonstrated unconditional forgiveness. jesus lived as a model to his disciples whereas paul deified jesus to make following his example impossible. jesus' message was follow me, whereas paul taught follow the law and worship jesus.

jesus condensed the law into a single simple liberating teaching -- love the lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. his definition of neighbor was anything but conservative. 'the world is my neighbor' teaching of jesus is the very definition of liberal.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

feigned acceptance

i have long considered the conservative christian designation to be an oxymoron. i started to say always, but that would not be entirely true. i was raised in what could only be described as a conservative christian family. i struggled to believe the doctrines that i heard preached and was taught in sunday school, but the best i could do was feign acceptance. i wanted to believe the things i was hearing, but i just could not.

for much of the time growing up, i tried, with varying degrees of desperation, to believe things, which to me, simply made no sense. at least not the way i understood it.

the message i had come away with was something like this: the bible [i.e. the king james version] was the literal word of god, dictated by the holy ghost to people who wrote word for word what was whispered into their ear. you were not to question anything therein, under threat of a literal burning everlasting hell. god, jesus and holy ghost were practically interchangeable terms in many instances, but with the caveat that jesus was the literal son of god, having been born of the physical union of mary and the holy ghost, and that his death on the cross was a necessary precondition for a loving god to forgive the sins of mankind. jesus' physical body was resurrected and physically ascended into heaven [passing through the atmosphere]. at any moment now, a trumpet will sound which everyone will hear, the 'dead in christ' will physically rise from their graves [with glorified bodies], and they, along with the sanctified who are alive, will ascend through the atmosphere into heaven.

for most of my youth, that was the message i heard. to question the message would, i was sure, consign my soul to an eternal burning hell. but, try as i might, i could not make the things i was being taught fit into any logical framework that made sense. despite that, i tried. really and truly, i tried. i went to off to furman university and studied religion with the intention of entering the baptist ministry. all the while, there was this uneasiness as i tried to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to fit the 'doctrines' i had been taught as a youth into some sort of framework that i could tolerate.

choosing furman for my education saved me. soon after arriving there, i realized that there were people who actually held beliefs that were different from those to which i had been exposed and their beliefs actually made some sort of sense to me. i learned that it was okay to ask questions and seek answers that were logically consistent. it was at once liberating and bitter-sweet, as i realized that much of what i learned would never find it's way into the church that i loved. i also learned that it was okay for me to think for myself and that i didn't have to have someone else tell me what i should think.

to say that furman changed me would be an understatement. it opened my mind and set me on the path to be the person i am, and i am quite happy to be who i am today. had it not been for my experience at furman, i would likely have nothing to do with the church today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

guinea pig... [update]

when my participation in the pagoclone study began, i was given three numbered bottles of gel-caps. two gel-caps b.i.d. from the first bottle from may 19 through june 1. june 2 through june 14, i was taking one b.i.d. from bottle two. i started the third bottle, [one b.i.d.] on june 15 and will continue with it through my next visit on july 13.

for about the first 5 days i noticed a runny nose, had a brief 'sore throat' around day 4, and felt generally tired and run down for the duration of bottle one. i did not notice a significant change in fluency, but i was not in a situation where i would normally have had fluency issues.

once i started bottle two, the runny nose returned for about 4 days, though it was not as bad as it was with the beginning of bottle one. the fatigue continued, but in fairness, my schedule was considerably more demanding for the duration of bottle two. with bottle two, i did notice an increase in fluency which was equal to or better than the fluency i was accustomed to while using the speech-easy device. i would rate my overall fluency with bottle two as being better than the speech-easy experience, with the added bonus that the medication does no interfere with my ability to hear the way the speech-easy does.

since starting bottle three on monday, i have not experienced the runny nose as with previous bottles. i continue to be both busy and tired. yesterday was probably the most fluent day of my life thus far. i taught an eight hour defensive driving class and never repeated an initial syllable more than twice, [that was only once, most of the stuttering was repeating an initial syllable once] and stuttered no more than a dozen times all day. i read all of the objectives for the five sessions without stuttering even once, something i have never done in twelve years of teaching the class.

at this point i have concluded that i am probably in the high dosage group of the study. either that or i have one amazing placebo. i'll post periodic updates as the study continues.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

nation of immigrants

this morning on the today show there was a piece about families being separated by our nations immigration policies. featured in the piece were 'mixed status' families, immigrant families were some members are undocumented aliens and others are citizens.

in one featured family, the husband has been in the country legally for 22 years. his wife, whom he had left behind in mexico, grew tired of waiting to enter the country legally and crossed over to be with her husband here in the states. after arriving, they had two more children together. in 2005, they went to immigration and naturalization seeking legal status for her to remain in the country with her family. she was arrested, deported and barred from entering the country for life. meanwhile, the rest of her family, who are legal, remains here.

with another family, the couple entered the country legally with visas, established a business, bought a home, but overstayed their visa. they were arrested in a midnight raid and deported to mexico, while their three children, who were born here, were allowed to stay.

immigration has been a hot button issue for some in this country, though, to be honest, i feel that much of the anger directed toward the issue is misplaced at best. we are, after all, a nation comprised totally of immigrants. the only persons in this country who are not immigrants have been so completely marginalized as to be invisible. in light of that simple fact, our mistreatment of immigrants who lack the proper papers is particularly egregious. i'm not aware that any of my ancestors arrived here with proper permissions from the native population.

in all respects, our country is what it is today because of the blood, sweat and tears of its immigrant population. rather than vilify those who enter our country seeking work, and eager to do whatever work they can find [often to the profit and advantage of our countrymen], we should embrace those whose hard labour can only make our country stronger.

Monday, June 1, 2009

when free speech is not free

on sunday an usher was gunned down as he served at his lutheran church in wichita, kansas. when phrased in that manner it sounds ghastly, and rightly so. should the details of the victim's profession make his death sound any less horrific? the victim, in this case, was a physician who provided medical services to desperate pregnant women. does including that information make his death any less deserved?

the back story is that the doctor had been the target of 'hate speech' from anti-abortion zealots and right-wing media talking heads because he provided abortion services to women who sought late term abortions. he provided this service because he was committed to attending to the medical needs to the women who sought his clinic out of desperation. he was also a man who was committed to his church and his faith. those two facts should not be in conflict or tension with one another.

never did he seek out women or compel them to enter his clinic to end their pregnancy. to the contrary, the women who entered his clinic seeking his services often did so over the pleas of anti-choice advocates to reconsider. to remain steadfastly committed to his patients in the face of such opposition is the epitome of courage and more of a testament to authentic christian faith than those who made his occupation dangerous. the doctor is a modern day christian martyr.

while i agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion and to the right to freely express that opinion, i do not agree that anyone has the right to make inflammatory statements that incite people to commit murder. to the extent that the anti-choice zealots used inflammatory rhetoric that resulted in the death of doctor tiller, they are accessories to murder.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

guinea pig...

a couple of months back, i got a phone call from a medical research company. i had contacted them about five years ago because i had stumbled across something interesting while doing some web research on stuttering. when i contacted them five years ago, they were in the initial stages of a clinical trial for a drug to treat persistent developmental stuttering.

the drug, pagoclone, had been developed and tested as a mild anxiolytic, but the clinical trials resulted in the drug manufacturer declining to proceed with marketing the drug, not because of any safety concerns, but because as an anxiolytic it did not bring anything to the marketplace to justify further development. in one of those twists of fate, a doctor in california had a couple of volunteers for the anxiety study who stuttered. the doctor noticed that during the study, while they were on the drug, their stuttering improved markedly. when the study ended and the drug was withdrawn, the stutterers returned to 'normal.' based on those results, the drug company made the decision to pursue marketing pagoclone for the treatment of persistent developmental stuttering.

i had contacted the atlanta institute of medicine and research in 2004 about participating in the study. i made the decision then that i would not participate, in part because the trial would be conducted from atlanta and making repeated trips to atlanta with my ten year old car did not seem like the best idea.

in early march, i got a call from the atlanta institute and was asked if i would be interested in participating in this stage of the trial. i agreed to sign on as a volunteer, though in truth, i had not fully considered how long a one day trip to atlanta and back would be. i made the initial trip to atlanta on march 18, where i was given a physical examination and videoed to determine that my stuttering met the needs of the study. on march 20, i got a call from wake research associates in raleigh asking if i wanted to participate in the study. given the fact that it is half the distance to raleigh that it is to atlanta, i dis-enrolled in the atlanta study and enrolled in the raleigh study instead. i had to have another physical examination and i was videoed stuttering again.

this past monday, i went back to raleigh, was videoed stuttering again and given my first three courses of gel-caps. as the study is being conducted as a double-blind for the next 32 weeks, i do not know what i am taking at present. there are three groups in the 32-week study, one group gets 30mg b.i.d., one group 60 mg b.i.d., and one group takes a placebo. at some point during the study, half of the first group and half of the second group will be given a placebo for 15 weeks, while half of the palcebo group will get 7.5mg b.i.d. for 15 weeks.

the hardest part of the study is being videoed stuttering. the instructions are to speak in my normal voice and not use any of the tricks or devices that i have used to not stutter. the difficulty with that is two-fold. first, being videoed stuttering is very stressful. i've stuttered for over 50 years and i still don't enjoy it. it is still personally upsetting and embarrassing. the other thing is, i have spent most of the last 50 years trying not to stutter. i have tried so many different strategies that i can't even remember what they are.

the reason that i agreed to participate in this study in the first place was not necessarily for myself. i have pretty much made my peace with my speech. it no longer dominates my life as it did at one time many years ago. it took a little time for me to realize it, but there are much, much worse problems that a person could have. given that, stuttering is hardly worth the concern.

my reason for participating in the study is because i recognize that this drug has the potential of being a real game changer for some people. i remember what it was like as a teen and young adult struggling to find a place in the world and being so dreadfully self-conscious about my speech that i actually allowed it to impact practically every aspect of my life. if by participating in the study, i can help get a medication approved that could ease the way for someone's child to have an easier passage through the trials of early adulthood, i am happy to be on board. no one should wish they could end their life because of the way they speak.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

and now, the rest of the story

when the previous post was imported into facebook, i tagged a dozen or so of my friends as being 'mentioned in the post.' i owe those people an explanation, so in the words of the late paul harvey, here is the rest of the story.

i knew that tagging my friends could possibly provoke some strong reactions, and it did. so first off, let me offer my apologies for any pain or confusion i may have caused. i count those tagged as some of my dearest friends and have only the fondest of memories in their regard. contrary to appearance, my purpose was not to call attention to myself or the sufferings of my own teenage angst. i do not suppose that the 'pain' i went through was necessarily any worse than anyone else's. the reason my friends were tagged is because of their role in the rest of the story.

you see, it was a few days after the pivotal event of the previous post that i came home from work one night, sat down in a chair in the den of my family's home, and started writing. when i had finished writing that night i had completed the stage portion of a 'musical' play. i left blank pauses in the text where the songs would be inserted, and over the course of the next week or so i wrote the songs to backfill the blanks. there was only one song included in the play that i had already written, and that was 'to live is christ.' [tom actually asked me about that song a while back, and unfortunately he had gotten the tune stuck in his head... sorry tom.] the title i gave to the play was 'i'm a lot like you.'

the reason my facebook friends were tagged is because they were a part of that experience. i shared the play with sylvia strickland after i had finished it, and she excitedly insisted that we [the choir] had to do this for the church. i was reluctant and afraid of what i was getting myself into, but once i told sylvia there was no turning back. the die was cast, it must be done. some of those who were tagged were part of the practices and performance of the play and others were part of the audience. at the moment, i can't recall all of the players on stage. there were three parts... i know melaine agreed to take one part, gwyn, i think, took another, but the intervening thirty-five years have clouded my memory and i'm having trouble recalling who the third player was on stage.

the play was performed only once, on sunday night, september 22, 1974. it was the first night of the youth revival. the church had flyers printed up and posted around the community. i used to have one of the flyers, but i don't know where it is now. the performance was audio-taped on one side of a two-hour cassette, but i never labeled the tape and it was inadvertently recorded over a few years later. i didn't actually see the performance, i was behind the set playing a borrowed guitar for the choir. [i borrowed a gibson acoustic guitar that had a pick-up in it so i could plug into the sound system.] i think i still have a copy of the play, but i'm not sure i could find it in less than a week.

i guess the only place that play exists now is in the collective the memory of those facebook friends and maybe a few others. i had someone tell me some years ago that the play had been a turning point in his life.

it's amazing how one action can affect so many others. we never truly know the effect of our words or actions. for the un-intended consequences of the previous post, i apologize, but now you know the rest of the story.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

with a little help from my friends

i have been on facebook for over a year now, but only starting using it last fall. the idea of social networking is somewhat new, and presents its own challenges to people like me, who do poorly with the social interaction thing in the first place. i imagine that most people who read my blog do so on facebook, rather than on the actual blog itself. this post is specifically for that subset of my facebook friends who were a part of mizpah baptist church when i was in my late teens.

i don't really know what other people thought of me, or if anyone knew the turmoil that i struggled with for much of that time. i couldn't hide the fact that i was weird, but i did try to hide the struggle. it may come as a shock to many of my friends to learn that i was really very close to suicide for quite some time then. just before my nineteenth birthday in january 1974, i was ready to close the book on my life.

there were a number of reasons, i suppose, though trying to articulate them now is difficult. it's hard to explain the workings of a teenage mind. the truth is, i just didn't fit in. part of the fun of being on facebook and re-connecting with people that i knew then is reading the group posts about things that happened 'back in the day.' sometimes those same posts only serve to remind me how much i missed out on during that time.

for most of my teens, stuttering ruled my life. no one then had ever heard of asperger's syndrome, though in retrospect i was a classic portrait of the asperger teen. of one thing i am certain, everyone who knew me would agree that i was weird. [i'm still weird, so don't get too caught up in the past tense of the verb.] from my vantage point, however, the stuttering overshadowed the weirdness. it was the root of all evil in my life. the demon that pursued me unrelentingly.

i didn't date when i was in high school. not because i didn't want to, or because my parents wouldn't allow it. the painful truth is that i didn't date in high school because no one that i asked would go out with me. perhaps part of that is a result of me asking the wrong girls. a bigger part simply goes back to that asperger trait of not being able to adequately read other people's feelings. after being shot down in flames a few times, asking someone out gets a little more difficult. it's hard to hear 'i have to wash my hair' as an excuse, though that is so much easier than hearing 'wait a minute. hey ya'll, listen to this... ok, ask me again.' hearing that actually makes hearing 'you're kidding, right?' easy to hear. after a while, trying simply isn't worth the effort.

which brings me to january 1974. i was starting my second semester at francis marion and working part time at sky city. my job was my only social life; not that i dated anyone there, though i would have liked to do so. i was the guy that the girls there would come to with their boyfriend questions. [does anyone else see the irony here?] i desperately wanted someone to want to be with me, but it wasn't happening, and they were asking me relationship questions. [a cruel torture if you think about it.] i blamed it all on my stuttering, which i was sure would be with me for the rest of my life. i was ready to die, and had started looking into ways to accomplish my death without experiencing further pain. all i wanted to do was not hurt any more. i had had enough.

so why am i still here? what happened to pull me back from the edge? my church friends happened, though i am sure that comes as a shock to them. the pianist/choir director at church was a dear saint of god, sylvia strickland. at that time she was organizing the young people at the church into a youth choir. she was insisting that i be a part, though i was more than hesitant. i felt i was too old, since the target group was junior high and high school youth. sylvia was insistent. i had to come to the practice. i was as reticent as she was insistent. the choir was to practice at 6 p.m. on sunday afternoon. i was not going. at 5:50, i still was not going. i agreed, however, to drive my younger brother there, so off we went. my intention was to sit at the back of the church and not participate.

the plan changed as we entered through the swinging doors at the back of the church. mitch went in first and i followed a few steps back. as i entered the sanctuary, what i can only describe as a cheer went up from the twenty-plus young people assembled. shouts of 'yay, robert's here,' rang out. perhaps sylvia had prepared the group in anticipation that i might show up, i don't know. it seemed spontaneous and genuine to me, however, and it came at exactly the right time. for a moment, i felt like a star. i felt, if not adored, at least well-liked.

i can't say that i haven't entertained the notion of a final exit since then, but i don't think i have ever been as close as i was at that time to doing something i would not live to regret. i know several people who have taken their own lives over the years, and, in a sense, i feel i can empathize with them in many respects. one thing of which i am certain, life is not meant to be lived alone, it is meant to be shared. that sunday afternoon at mizpah was a turning point for me. i would not imagine that anyone else remembers that afternoon, which would be fitting. i believe that often the things which touch other people's lives the most are the things which we ourselves forget.

it's been a dozen years since sylvia took her place in glory. i still think of her as someone who acted as a guardian angel. i got an opportunity to stop by her house just before she died and thank her for what she had done, and she had no idea. in all honesty, though, it wasn't just her. everyone who was there that afternoon helped to save my life. i wish i could thank each of them personally, but i don't know all who were there. i know that some of those who were there have already shed this veil of tears. to those who read this, thank you. i leave you with a line from an old beatles tune... i get by with a little help from my friends.

Friday, April 17, 2009

we or me

the faux news inspired tax day protests were an interesting phenomenon. i find it odd that apparently none of these people had a problem with the george w bush administration standing down as terrorists attacked, lying us into a war, torturing prisoners detained without charges at secret prisons around the globe, tripling the national debt, allowing the financial barons to bankrupt the country and then handing them a get out of debt free card courtesy of the american taxpayer... all this over an eight year period and nary a self-righteous peep. but, put a democrat in the whitehouse with a democratic congress and let them actually try to do something to get us out of the republican designed mess [which of course belongs to all us now] and suddenly we are all in danger of losing our freedom. get real.

one of the sore losers, who objected to being called out, made the following statement on another website: 'some of us believe in a flat tax, privatizing [sic] schools, eliminating the i.r.s., etc. some of us believe in the individual, not the government.' which i guess is the basic difference. the protesters are 'me first' people who are unhappy about having 'we first' people in control.

we could save billions in tax dollars nationally if we did away with public schools, which are available to all students regardless of race, economic status or disability, offer free transportation to and from school, and subsidised lunch [and breakfast] programs which offer each student nutritionally balanced meals at reduced or no cost if necessary. we could save tons of money if we only make education available to those who can afford it. besides, they're the only ones who will actually benefit from it anyway.

the flat tax... now there's an idea. let's shift the tax burden from those who have benefited most in our economy to those who struggle to get by from day to day and call that 'fair.' oh, i forgot, they'll get to keep all of their check. of course they'll need it. based on the tax calculator widget at fairtax.org, every family with an income of less than 100k will see a net tax increase. that's real fairness. let's have the poor pay more taxes. after all, there are more poor people than rich people.

it all comes down to what type of country we want for our children. a country that seeks to extend opportunities to all or only to those who can afford them. a country whose financial needs are met by those who have the most money or by those who have the least. do we really want our children to grow up wearing 'me first' blinders?

the most ironic sight on wednesday was that of a teabagger holding a picture of benjamin franklin's 'join or die' cartoon, which was drawn to encourage colonial [national] unity, at an event whose sole purpose was to divide our nation. for the love of god, mccain/palin lost the election by over 8.5 million votes, the biggest margin since mondale/ferraro's loss in 1984. accept it, teabaggers, the voters rejected your ideas by a resounding margin. your cry-baby antics will only set the stage for greater losses in the years to come. [on second thought, keep up the good work... we liberals love you.]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

tea party, smee party

ok, let the cry babies have their little tantrum. i haven't heard a single proposal from any of the ersatz movements 'leaders' that would provide a better way out of the mess in which we find ourselves. these brilliant 'patriots' certainly have an odd way of showing they love their country.

paying taxes is patriotic. it is a privilege to live in this country. i am more than happy to do my part to pay for the things that make our country a place where people want to live. i am happy to pay to make this great country even better. i really feel sorry for the selfish people out shouting in the streets that they are taxed enough. i doubt any of the protesters have ever paid an excessive tax when measured against the benefits they have at their fingertips.

our taxes pay for police protection, fire protection, paved roads and safe bridges. not just public schools, but free transportation to those schools so that even our poorest children can receive and education. my tax dollars go to provide a better quality of life for people with disabilities and guarantee income and medical care for the elderly.

every penny that i pay in taxes ends up in someone else's paycheck. in big ways and small, i get more value from the paltry taxes i pay than any of the other money i spend. do i pay too much? nope. not at all. i really feel sorry for those who feel otherwise.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

what's in a name?

'what's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' [william shakespeare, romeo and juliet].

while that is true, a person's name, and how one feels about that name, has a lot to do with how that one feels about oneself.

personally, i never really liked my first name [robert]. when i was small, before i started school, i was called robbie. i liked the name and everyone liked robbie. when it came time for me to start school, my parents declared that i would no longer be called robbie, but i would be 'robert' instead. i threw tantrums and resisted as much as i could, but eventually surrendered to their wishes and begrudgingly accepted being called 'robert,' but i never liked it. as a result, i can't say that i ever really liked myself very much. i don't know that it's fair or accurate to assign all of my poor self image to not liking my name, there's much more to it than that, but it did play a part. to make matters worse, i had a friend in elementary school and junior high, whose name was robby. how i envied that he had gotten to keep his name when i had to surrender mine.

disliking my name also made my stuttering [or palilalia] worse. when introducing myself, i would frequently repeat the first syllable several times. whether anyone else took notice of this or not, it was quite distressing to me.

the remedy, for me, came when i finally left home to live on my own. i began introducing myself as 'rob'. as a practical matter, this interrupted the repetition process. because i had no reason to go beyond the first syllable, i could stop speaking before the repetitions began. this minor change helped me feel better about myself.

people who 'knew me when' still call me 'robert'. i don't especially like it, but i don't get overly upset about it. i didn't tell mom and dad how i felt about my name for a very long time. mom now calls me 'rob' some of the time, though dad rarely does so. my brothers call me 'robert' but most of my aunts, uncles and cousins call me 'robbie'. and i still get a pleasant, warm felling when i hear 'robbie'.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

false expectations

at the bottom of the bulletin at church this morning was a quote attributed to jimmy carter. 'we should live our lives as though christ was coming this afternoon.'

my immediate thought upon reading that was 'how long can we [as the church] maintain expectancy without a hint of the fulfilment of that expectation.' a couple of weeks ago, a comment was made in the sermon that many of today's ills are the result of 'the church not being the church.' as dangerous as it may be to try to connect these two thoughts, i think they need to be connected. expectation creates action, and if the expectation is unrealistic, any action will be ineffective.

if we look back to the first generation church, the church of the associates of jesus and the disciples who followed him, the church before the conversion of saul and his transformation into saint paul, we see a very different church from what we see anywhere today. this was a church that, for the most part, was still connected to the worship of the temple.

and all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. and they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. [acts 2:44-46]

the preceding passage and those leading to it, not only lay the foundation for christian socialism, but paint a picture of a church very different from what we know today. the earliest church was an expectant church, a church that waited expectantly for the imminent return of it's founder. it is this expectation that led the earliest christians to disavow their possessions, possessions they would soon no longer need anyway, and share with each other as each had need.

as months turned into years and the expectancy waned, the developing doctrinal foundation of the church shifted to accommodate the modified expectations. the interpretation of who jesus was and what his teaching meant was revised and expanded to fit the emerging reality that the jesus who had been taken from them would not be returning to take them to be with him in the skies.

the fact that the message of the new testament is steeped in the three tiered cosmology of the pre-copernican ancient world presents a significant challenge to the modern believer. while some within the church have attempted to adjust to fit the modern mind, there is a considerable popular movement which embraces biblical literalism at the expense of any rational world-view.

to live 'as though christ was coming this afternoon' actually means to suspend any rational understanding of the universe in favour of a completely irrational expectation. which leads us back to the whole 'church failing to be the church' thread. the reality is, the church has not been 'the church' since the maturation of the first generation. currently the church is engaged in a struggle. either the church will represent the best of what we can be, embracing science and rationalism as part of god's continuing revelation and living as a community that embodies unity, peace, compassion, generosity and humility or the church will cling to doctrines that are anti-rational, stubbornly faithful to a closed, static view of revelation being wholly complete; doctrines which encourage division, strife, hatred, greed and pridefulness.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

what if big government really can...

the popular view for many years has been that big government is inherently bad. there are many reasons for this, and i'm sure that this view is not without some justification. but for a moment, let's try to consider that government involvement could be beneficial and desirable.

let's consider, first of all, what the founding fathers had in mind when they set up the framework for our republic. the constitution begins with the words 'we the people of the united states.' government was not intended to be some adversarial entity, it was to be all of us, in it together. why were they setting up this framework? they give us the answer, first and foremost, 'in order to form a more perfect union.' the founding fathers were alluding to the best of eighteenth century utopianism. they believed that all of us, together, could accomplish more than any one of us could dream. it is this belief that has built and sustained our nation through the trials of the past and it is this belief which must unite us if we are to solve our current problems.

the constitution sets forth the following objectives: 'establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity'

establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquillity, providing for a common defence, and promoting the general welfare of the people are the means by which we secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

does our current president's plans for economic stimulus mesh with the constitutional objectives? yes. does the providing universal health care for our citizens mesh with the constitutional objective of promoting the general welfare? again, the answer is yes, but one would be hard pressed to gather that from the flatulent orations of those who have directed the ship of state toward the icebergs.

the admission that where we are now is precisely where the principles of the reagan revolution led us is no doubt difficult for the 'true believers,' but the fact remains that we are where we are because we took that path. maybe it's time for us to adopt the outlook of our founding fathers. maybe all of us together really can accomplish more than any one of us could dream.

Friday, March 27, 2009

when you're number two...

according to figures released today, south carolina has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, at eleven percent following michigan's twelve percent. with a little help from our governor, i'm confident that our proud state can overtake michigan and claim the first place prize, provided sanford sticks to his guns and doesn't use the federal stimulus money to actually create or sustain jobs.

i wish there was a way to get it across to the thick-headed multitudes that goverment spending is actually spending on jobs. every penny that governments spend goes to somebody's job. the spending that affects the fewest jobs is probably bond payment/debt retirement.

as an example of how government spending affects jobs, let's say the governor's office buys ten cases of paper. how many jobs play a part in getting those ten cases of paper to the governor's office? there would be the person who took the order for the paper and the person who delivered it, the driver that brought the paper from the warehouse to the jobber who sold it, the person who brought the paper from the factory to warehouse and the person who unloaded and loaded the trucks at the warehouse. of course, there are numerous workers at the paper manufacturing company, but drilling deeper there is the driver who brought the pulp wood to the paper mill, the loggers who cut the trees, and the workers who planted the trees that eventually grew to be harvested by the loggers.

granted, we are in a less than optimal situation, but with a state constitution that mandates a balanced budget, and shrinking tax collections due to the economic downturn, taking advantage of the federal stimulus money should be a no-brainer. too bad our governor is the scarecrow from the wizard of oz.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

right wing whine-o's

i am more than a little tired of the constant negative whining coming from the spoiled children on the right wing side of the political spectrum. it would, perhaps, be tolerable if this were something new, but this bad behavior has been going on since at least the 70's, and, to tell you the truth, enough is enough.

it seems as if we, as a society, have lost of all sense of camaraderie and cooperation. let's take a little look back so i can show you what mean.

nixon was elected in 1968 after the democratic party's complete self-destruction, in an election that was only 'close' because george wallace syphoned off 9.9 million votes and 46 electoral votes in his quixotic quest. the 'righties' had regained the white house after 8 years out.

the 1972 election saw nixon employ a win at any cost strategy, which won him re-election in a landslide at the price of his reputation and legacy. after vice-president agnew resigned amid a corruption scandal, the inept nice guy, gerald ford was appointed vice-president months before nixon resigned from office to avoid impeachment and removal.

gerald ford, who would still be the most ill-equiped president in modern history were it not for george w. bush, lost a close election to jimmy carter in 1976 and the whining began in earnest. the strident negativist drumbeat of the right wing whiners provided the disco beat for the soundtrack of his presidency and lead to the thumping loss 1980.

with the election of ronald reagan in 1980, the whiners grew silent as the regulatory supports began to be chiseled away and the groundwork was laid for our current economic collapse. with reagan's re-election in 1984 and george h. w. bush's election in 1988, the whiners were reinforced with a sense of entitlement thanks to the efforts of groups such as the moral majority and the christian coalition. the whiners were right and they had the right to direct the course of the country. if you disagree, too bad, the majority rules and does not care about anyone who is not on board with their narrow agenda.

this attitude was more than apparent after bill clinton won the presidency in 1992. no sooner had clinton's shadow darkened the white house door than the efforts to undermine his presidency began. the whiner's were able to retake the congress in 1994 and keep clinton running the scandal circuit for most of his presidency.

enter george w. in 2000, with his pledge to restore honor and decency to the white house after using his father's supreme court to prevent a proper count of florida's ballots. the whiners were happy to turn their attention to the slim democratic margin in senate [though cheney would provide the tiebreaker]. once the whiners had control of the executive and legislative branches, they were able to complete control of the judiciary with the appointment of roberts and alito, so they targeted anyone who disagreed with the administration.

when the whiners lost congress in 2006, they targeted pelosi, byrd and clinton, the presumptive nominee for 2008. in a sense, the whiners helped obama win the nomination, and indirectly, the presidency. now that the democrats are in control all we hear from the right wing whine-o's is their desperate fear-mongering and criticism. no ideas, no leadership, nothing positive. it makes me tired.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

mensa me

there were two segments on cbs sunday morning today about mensa, the high i.q. society [the segments are online here and here]. as a one-time mensan, a couple of things caught my attention.



in the first segment, two children who were mensa members were interviewed, a boy and a girl. the boy had on his name tag 'mr. know-it-all.' both children related what i already knew. it's not easy to be a gifted child. both children were picked on and encountered a degree of animosity from their peers because they were 'smart.' i know it was puzzling for me in elementary school, trying to understand why other kids didn't 'get it' or understand things in class when it was easy.



in the second segment, richard lederer makes the comment 'i believe it is possible to be severely gifted.' just after that comment was this from lesly sthal, who narated the piece: 'there are an unknown number of mensans with high-end autism or asperger's syndrome' noting the aversion to being touched [which i sort of got over] as the reason for the green and red dots on the name tags at the annual gathering [green dots, ok to hug, red dots, hands off].

watching the segments reminded of why i joined mensa, years ago. it provided a place i could go and find people like me. that never happened very often anywhere else, before or since.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

cousin mark

i'm so happy to be living in a state where our governor knows what is best for us and doesn't need to consult with or listen to anyone with regard to spending the president's stimulus money. after all, cousin mark knows the needs of south carolina better than uncle sam.

thanks to cousin mark, south carolina currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation. we have been able to achieve this lofty position thanks to his tireless leadership over the last six years. i have no doubt that, given his management skills, south carolina will soon be recognized as having the highest unemployment rate in the country.

when cousin mark took office, south carolina wasn't second in the nation in any category. now, not only are we within shouting distance of the highest unemployment rate, but we have made great strides toward mediocrity in education, and our teen preganacy rate is rising.

we now have fewer highway patrol officers to enforce needless traffic safety laws, so we have a good chance of increasing our highway traffic death toll. since we have been in top three in years past for highest death ratio per mile, registered vehicle and per capita, perhaps we can achieve a trifecta and lead the nation in all three categories there as well.

yes, i am so happy to have cousin mark looking our for us here in the grate state of south carolina, where everyone falls through the cracks, except for cousin mark's wealthy friends and donors.

Monday, March 9, 2009

this is not 1933

it may come as a shock to some people, but this is not 1933. president obama is not facing the same situation that faced president roosevelt in that year. 2009 is, in many respects, a more formidable challenge than roosevelt faced.

some have made comparisons between bush and hoover for their presiding over economic meltdowns, but that comparison falls short. herbert hoover had only been in office for six months when the free fall began, whereas george bush had been at the helm for six and half years when the present downturn began in the fall of 2007. the downturn became a free fall as the election played out.

roosevelt had the luxury of picking up the pieces after everything had completely fallen apart. obama is faced with the daunting task of trying to halt the downward momentum, before being able to effect an economic rebound. i see some justification in applying the principles of basic physics, economic ergonomics, if you will. it is much more difficult to reverse momentum than to overcome inertia.

obama has taken office amid tremendous expectations, which, given the debacle of the bush administration, is quite understandable. the temptation is great to expect too much, too soon. we are at a unique moment in our history. we face challenges unlike those faced by any other generation. the challenges we face are unlike, not greater than, but unlike, anything that has ever come before. we must temper our expectations and remember that, regardless of how much the president may pattern policy responses after franklin roosevelt, this in not 1933.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

helmets, seatbelts and freedom

yesterday dozens of bikers gathered in murrells inlet and rode into myrtle beach to protest a local ordinance requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets when riding within the city. the so-called myrtle beach helmet freedom ride was organized to 'fight for people's rights'.

'fighting for rights' is a well-worn phrase used to protest laws or ordinances which were enacted to promote public health and safety such as seatbelt and helmet laws. 'it's our right' they argue, and if we don't 'it's a matter of individual choice.' some years ago, south carolina's legislature bought that argument and repealed the state requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets.

the problem with that logic is that automobile liability insurance rates are calculated by the distributed risks of the insured. when motorcyclists don't wear helmets, their risk is distributed to the rest of the insured pool, riders and non-riders, to make sure there are sufficient funds to cover liabilities that may arise. the same thing goes for seatbelts, everyone in the state pays higher insurance rates because of those who don't or won't wear their seatbelts.

our state legislature would rather everyone pay higher rates than hold those responsible for increasing risks accountable for their actions. south carolina still has one of the weakest seat belt laws in the nation. the fine is only twenty five dollars and not really worth the time for our law enforcement officers to enforce. the ticket carries no points, and is not reported to the insurance companies and not wearing a seatbelt cannot, under south carolina law, be considered contributory negligence as far as any injuries received. besides that, every day i see local law enforcement officers not wearing their seatbelts in their patrol vehicles.

those who don't wear their seatbelts or don't wear their motorcycle helmets have a freedom that i don't have. they have the freedom to keep my insurance rates high and there is nothing i can do about it, except not like it. when will our representatives in the statehouse start looking out for people who try to be responsible and hold irresponsible people more accountable for the costs they incur on the rest of us? given the high level of both irresponsibility and irresponsiveness of our state legislators, i don't hold out much hope.

Friday, February 27, 2009

acceptable disenfranchisement?

the republicans in the south carolina house of representatives recently passed a bill requiring voters to present a photo identification at the polls in order to vote. the vote took place after the black caucus and house democrats walked out of the chamber.

the issue overlooked by the house republicans was that the requirement would place an additional obstacle on elderly, poor and minority rural voters across the state. particularly in our state's rural counties, there are many people who lack transportation. even though the bill makes a free photo id card available from the department of motor vehicles, it does not make it any easier for people without transportation to get to the dmv during their limited hours. it also does not provide additional staffing to expedite transactions or make any additional accommodations for people who cannot stand in line.

the question becomes 'what is an acceptable level of disenfranchisement?' apparently, house republicans have decided that losing the voters who would be frustrated by the bill's requirements is entirely acceptable.

this bill is being touted as protecting the integrity of the vote. the irony is, however, many precincts use touch screen voting machines that can be programmed to flip votes to favor one candidate over another. someone should remind our lawmakers that joseph stalin once said 'the people who cast the votes do not decide an election, the people who count the votes do.'

Sunday, February 22, 2009

corridor of shame

the title of this post is borrowed from a documentary which was produced several years ago and documented the deficiencies of several school districts in south carolina along the i-95 corridor. the school districts profiled are all underfunded, under-performing and under-supported.

the problems there have been festering for the last forty years. they began, coincidentally, with what was supposed to be the end of segregated schools. 1967-1970 proved to be pivotal years for education in south carolina. a look at the charters of many of the state's private schools will show them founded during that period. the impetus for their founding was the same as that behind the 'separate but equal' era of public education. it was racism, pure and simple.

the school districts along the so-called corridor of shame share several things in common. the affected school districts are predominantly black and the majority of the white students are in private schools. (dillon district 2 is a possible exception, where perhaps a slim majority of the white students are in public schools.) the districts are among the poorest in the state. local funding for schools depends on property taxes, and the affected districts have a very low tax base. there is considerable resistance from the white community to any increase in taxes to fund the schools, in large part because the white parents and property owners have withdrawn their children from the public schools.

the problem facing the schools along the corridor (which extends well beyond the three districts profiled in the documentary) is the result of the combined forces of poverty and racism. the solution, ultimately, needs to deal with both facets of the problem. one thing that must be done, is the funding for south carolina's public schools must be restructured. that is part of the solution, that is the easy part. the more difficult task is face the deep-seated racial fear and mistrust that perpetuates the enslavement of our children. no one can be free when racism shackles us to our past and bars us from our future.

remembering things

apparently, i remember things differently than other people. i've known this for quite some time, since childhood actually. my co-workers have referred to me as 'the archive' and usually either shake their heads or roll their eyes when i remember some trivial detail.

i have a fairly accurate visual memory, though my auditory memory leaves much to be desired. this was a fact that was documented relatively late in my academic career, though i had already learned to use my visual memory to compensate for my lack of auditory memory.

one difficulty i had in school was taking notes. i learned early on that i got lost if i tried to take the detailed notes that i saw my classmates taking. the problem was, when i tried to take detailed notes, i lost track of what was taking place in class. i learned that i was much better off, if i was going to take any notes at all, to simply jot down brief phrases to cue me to key points. my notes were useless to anyone else, a fact that was evident because no one ever asked to borrow my notes twice. i did best in classes where the instructor was animated and interesting, especially if they were faithful to the material in the textbook. the classes i did poorly in were the ones where the instructor was more subdued and included significant amounts of material on the test which was not in the textbook, but presented in the lectures.

i remember my freshman year at francis marion college, i was taking a history course from a professor whom i found interesting because he did some things that i found unusual, like bringing his irish setter to class on occasion. his lectures were reasonably faithful to the textbook. i took his class for two semesters and took virtually no notes in class. i would preview the material in the textbook prior to class and review the material in the textbook after the lecture, paying special attention to the portions he had emphasized.

the day before second semester final exam, the professor was walking through the snack bar and spotted me sitting at table watching a card game. he came over and called me by name. 'you know the final exam is tomorrow,' he said. i replied that i knew, and he continued by saying that he had noticed that i didn't take notes in his class. he pointed out that i had been doing pretty well in the class. [as i recall, my lowest grade that semester in his class had been a 95.] his next comment, however, caught me off-guard. he looked at me with this incredulous expression and asked how i did it. as i stumbled for an answer, he said, 'that's ok, i'm going to screw you tomorrow.' although i am absolutely certain that i knew everything on the exam, and i answered everything fully and completely including the extra credit question, i ended up with a 'b-plus' for the class.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

why bi-partisanship failed

the economic stimulus package passed congress yesterday with no republican votes in the house and only three in the senate. congressional republicans, railing against liberal government spending, and touting their own panacea of tax cuts for businesses, voted no in a final childish tantrum because they didn't get their way.

yes, it would be nice if our elected representatives could behave as statesmen rather than spoiled brats and join together to support a solution to our economic mess that reflects the consensus of leading economists, in short, do what is best for the country for once. but that is too much to ask.

in the final analysis, bi-partisanship is over-rated. the republican party grew in popularity because they appealed to our most immature instincts, selfishness and prejudice. their time in the sun is, hopefully, over. it's time to grow up and move past that. in the meantime, i have a suggestion for the gop stalwarts. perhaps it's time that you changed your party's mascot from the elephant to something more appropriate... like the woolly mammoth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

debacle or catastrophe?

i watched president obama's press conference last night as he put forth his case for the economic stimulus package currently before congress. several things came to mind.

first of all, with regard to present situation which he inherited. make no mistake, we did not just get into this mess in september, or in the last eight years or sixteen years even. we have been digging this economic hole with a variety of tools for at least the last forty years. this is not solely the result of mismanagement under the bush administration or the clinton administration.

this goes back beyond the "reagan revolution." if you recall, one of reagan's campaign issues was a faltering economy. gasoline prices at the pump had nearly tripled over a seven year period, after well over a decade of relative stability. mortgage rates were climbing, home constuction was suffering, manufacturing plants were closing and american jobs were being shipped out of the country. prices were rising and incomes were stagnant. sound familiar?

so what was the solution then? remember that massive federal deficit that reagan campaigned against, 60 billion dollars in october 1980? according to reagan we needed to balance the budget, increase spending on our national defense and cut taxes so that businesses can afford to invest.

did it work? well, in a word, no. defense spending was increased and taxes were cut, especially for the higher incomes. the budget, however, was not balanced. in fact, the federal budget deficit ballooned under the conservative ronald reagan to then unprecedented heights. the budget deficit when reagan left office was three times higher than what he had inherited. what did the money reagan borrowed buy us? more manufacturing jobs? not hardly. half of all u.s. manufacturing jobs have been exported to "emerging economies."

it's a little bit funny, in light of the facts, to watch the republicans in congress posturing as if they are the guardians of american economic health. every republican administration since 1969 has left our country deeper in debt, and with fewer wealth producing manufacturing jobs than before. one major difference between the current economic mess and the "great depression" is that for the forty years prior to the great depression, our economy had seen a steady increase in manufacturing jobs, i.e., jobs that create wealth by producing a product that people buy, whereas the forty years preceding our current economic debacle have seen the greatest decrease in american manufacturing since the industrial revolution.

to suggest that present crisis can be solved by essentially the same thinking that got us into this hole is absurd. while everyone likes the sound of tax cuts, and it would be wonderful to have a balanced budget and not be mortgaging our grandchildren's future, there is no available evidence that tax cuts create jobs. the simple fact is, jobs are created when people (or goverments) spend. to cut spending from the stimulus package is to render it completely impotent. of course, that what the republicans (following rush limbaugh) want... to see president obama fail, regardless of the effect on our country.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

imago dei

one purpose i had in mind when i started this blog was to actually write out some of the things i believe, primarily to clarify some things in my own mind, but also as a vehicle to stimulate discussion with others who may be interested. this is my first post in what i intend to be a series.

genesis begins with an account of god creating 'the heavens and the earth,' culminating with the creation of man 'in his own image.' this is where the bible starts and this is where i will start. my upbringing was one which placed the bible at the center of religious belief.

i believe in god. i believe that god is the first cause, the creator who set the universe in motion. as the genesis account relates, god created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein.

the genesis account provides something else. there is the assertion that god created man in his own image, or likeness. what does that mean? for me, the meaning here is that like god, we have the capacity to create. in the biblical account, the image of god is attributed only to mankind. though all of creation bears the imprint of the creator, humankind is unique in its ability to create. it is this ability to create that portrays our likeness to god.

when we embrace the creative impulse within us, in whatever form it may manifest itself, we embrace the 'godness' in ourselves. whether we acknowledge it or not, when we create, we connect with something deep within ourselves.

i used to write songs when i was younger. it was the writing that allowed me to find myself, to discover who i was. it was through the writing that i discovered my authentic self. when i stopped writing, i lost touch with a part of myself.

as i look back, the times in my life that i have been most content were the times when i was engaged in some sort of creative activity. the jobs that have been most satisfying were the ones where i had the opportunity to create something on my own. conversely, the times which i found least satisfying were the situations in which i found my creativity stifled.

the image of god is, in my mind, the unique ability that humankind possesses that allows us to create. regardless of what we create, when we create we find our true authentic selves.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

life is a journey...

"life is a journey, not a destination" is almost cliché, but for me, it is true nonetheless. this is especially true with regard to my faith journey.

i was raised in a very devout southern baptist family. for as far back as i can remember, weekly church attendance was assumed. for most of that time, weekly meant sunday school and worship on sunday morning, 'training union' and worship on sunday evening, and prayer meeting on wednesday evening.

implicit in my upbringing was that the bible was to accepted in more or less literal terms, and questioning that basic assumption was something akin to blasphemy.

my first 'mistake' was, i suppose, trying to make sense of what i was being told to believe. i tried. really. i tried to believe what i was taught, the way i was taught, but i just couldn't. of course, since admitting that i just couldn't believe the 'accepted teachings' would be 'blasphemy', i kept that information to myself.

i remember how liberating it felt when, as an undergraduate, i learned that there were people who actually questioned the same things that i did. for the first time, i actually felt free to think about what it was that i personally believed.

my sojourn has taken me from my upbringing as a southern baptist, to a pastorate in the united methodist church, back to a baptist church as a layman, then back to the united methodist church as a layman and then another pastorate, a stint as a pulpit supply, then a period as an occasional lay member of a united methodist church, then moving to the presbyterian church, where i have been for the last 15 years, in varying levels of involvement.

my beliefs, however, are not what would be considered mainstream for the presbyterian church, at least as far as my local presbytery is concerned. my personal beliefs would probably be best characterized as reflecting the liberal quaker perspective.

a couple of weeks ago, i made my first visit to an unprogrammed friends (quaker) meeting. the meeting was in conway, sc, in a building that serves as an ecumenical food pantry for the local area. there were six people in attendance besides my wife and me. it was a very different experience. the meeting began, after brief introductions, with us singing a few hymns. three actually, the eight of us singing a capella. the hymns were the same hymns i was familiar with, though on two of three, i noticed subtle differences in the words, changes that reflected the quaker beliefs. after the hymns, the next forty five minutes were spent in silent prayer and meditation, or expectant waiting. no one spoke. at the end of the meeting, we greeted those next to us, there was some comment about plans for the next week, and the meeting adjourned to refreshments and fellowship.

i've been reflecting on that experience for a couple weeks now. i enjoyed being in the presence of like minded people, for a change. sometimes i feel like i have very little in common with the people sitting next to me in church. it's more than a little frustrating sometimes.

my plan, at this point, is to follow this post with a series of posts outlining some of the beliefs that are most important to me at this point. i don't know if this will interest any readers or not, but hopefully it will be a fruitful exercise for me, at least.