Monday, January 30, 2006

Labels and Reasoned Debate

Submitted to the Highlands Ranch Herald on 1/29/06:

Recent exchanges on these pages have just about convinced me that it is impossible to have a reasoned debate about the issues in America, or at least in our little corner of it. Once again, writers like John Ebel and Kevin Colas are unable to present their views without resorting to their label of choice, the dreaded "L-word."

Regarding allegations of media bias, John provided us with some questions he claims are never asked. Well, I have my own list of questions that are never asked. For example, Ted Harvey's House District 43 went for Referendum C by a margin of 54% to 46% in 2005, even though Harvey was a vocal leader of the opposition. In 2004, voters in Highlands Ranch approved issues 4A and 4B, as well as Amendments 35 and 37. Harvey was opposed to all of these winning issues. Why is it that our local media never asks Ted why he is so out of touch with the voters in his district, or why Ted thinks he is now qualified to serve in the Colorado Senate? Is that biased reporting, or something else entirely?

Kevin Colas accused me of using the label "Pharisee" for those who use the "L-word." In truth, (in a bit of unintentional irony, I admit) I was using it to refer to everyone who resorts to labels. I have no respect for those of any political persuasion who are too lazy to think for themselves, and who substitute labels for rational argument. Kevin also offered Jamie Larue’s recent column about the First Amendment as an example of bias. It’s funny -- I always thought that taking a stand was what columnists did. How could they convince us of anything if they never stand for anything? At least Jamie doesn’t pretend to be a journalist, unlike the talking heads and pundits who haunt the airwaves and the major newspapers nowadays.

Finally, when was the golden age of American journalism when reporters and editors were completely unbiased and impartial? Maybe it was during the Civil War, when the Chicago Tribune said this about William Seward and Abraham Lincoln, “He is Lincoln’s evil genius. He has been President de facto, and has kept a sponge saturated with chloroform to Uncle Abe’s nose.” Imagine the outrage if the New York Times said the same thing today about Karl Rove and George W. Bush. Just imagine…

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins

From Sojourners:

  • Politics without principle
  • Wealth without work
  • Commerce without morality
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Education without character
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice

Monday, January 16, 2006

Labels and the new Pharisees

Submitted to the Highlands Ranch Herald on January 15:

One of your letter writers attempted to educate us this week on the "liberal slant" of the Highlands Ranch Herald. Sadly, his list of charges is typical of those who see "liberal" bogeymen everywhere they look. In fact, if the Herald were guilty of even one of those charges, he should have been able to provide a specific example. I went back and looked, but no, there weren’t any in his letter. It should have been easy if his claims were true.

Although the unproven charges and lack of specifics in recent weeks have been disturbing, the widespread usage of labels is even more disturbing. Why do so many people have such a devotion to labels? When people use these labels, they switch off their brains and stop listening. They believe that the label-ee isn't really human, and doesn't deserve respect. When they apply these labels to the media, they reject anything they see or read that doesn’t conform to their view of the world. When they use these labels on elected officials or candidates for office, they can easily question their motives, or see evil in everything they say or do. I challenge all of your letter writers and columnists to think about what they say. How would things be different if we actually debated the issues honestly with facts and logic, instead of wasting time by calling each other names or by hurling insults.

This weekend at church, my pastor asked, "Are we descendants of the Pharisees, or of Christ?" It seems that those who insist on labeling people are the new Pharisees – quick to judge and slow to feel compassion or understanding. The next time you feel compelled to use one of those labels, ask yourself, “What label would Jesus use?” and then act accordingly. You might be surprised at the results!

P.S. Yes, I did run for the Colorado legislature in 2004, and yes, I did lose my race. I am not ashamed of the results, and anyone who thinks that they can insult me or hurt my feelings because of my loss is sorely mistaken. I am proud to have been part of American democracy in action, and I hope I stand as an example to everyone who believes in America and in the right of the voters to have a choice when they cast their ballots. This is not the Soviet Union and we do not live in a single-party dictatorship. I respect every American who puts themselves and their reputation on the line by being a candidate for public office, no matter what party they represent, and everyone else should, too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Daily Kos talks about Bill Winter

Daily Kos has an excellent write-up on our very own "Fighting Dem," Bill Winter.

Bill was a live interview guest on The Majority Report on Air America Radio on Tuesday, January 10th. The interview was another installment in their series on "The Fighting Dems," covering the 31 (and counting) veterans who are running for Congress in 2006 as Democrats. The interview can be heard here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hey buddy - want to buy some phone records?

The Chicago Sun-Times reported a couple of days ago about how easy it is to obtain the phone call records for virtually any telephone number in the United States. If you want to see just how easy it is, check this out.

Unfortunately, the FCC is more concerned with stamping out occasional images of the female breast on cable TV than with protecting the privacy of American citizens. Of course, as long as the Bush administration continues to insist that American citizens have no constitutional right to privacy, I have my doubts that anything will change.

In the meantime, give very careful consideration to the calls you make from your home or cell phone. You never know who else is paying attention.

Friday, January 06, 2006

What's wrong with the economy?

Thanks to the Economic Policy Institute for this report:
  1. Profits are up, but the wages and the incomes of average Americans are down.
    • Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly wages are still below where they were at the start of the recovery in November 2001. Yet, productivity—the growth of the economic pie—is up by 13.5%.
    • Wage growth has been shortchanged because 35% of the growth of total income in the corporate sector has been distributed as corporate profits, far more than the 22% in previous periods.
    • Consequently, median household income (inflation-adjusted) has fallen five years in a row and was 4% lower in 2004 than in 1999, falling from $46,129 to $44,389.

  2. More and more people are deeper and deeper in debt.
    • The indebtedness of U.S. households, after adjusting for inflation, has risen 35.7% over the last four years.
    • The level of debt as a percent of after-tax income is the highest ever measured in our history. Mortgage and consumer debt is now 115% of after-tax income, twice the level of 30 years ago.
    • The debt-service ratio (the percent of after-tax income that goes to pay off debts) is at an all-time high of 13.6%.
    • The personal savings rate is negative for the first time since WWII.

  3. Job creation has not kept up with population growth, and the employment rate has fallen sharply.
    • The United States has only 1.3% more jobs today (excluding the effects of Hurricane Katrina) than in March 2001 (the start of the recession). Private sector jobs are up only 0.8%. At this stage of previous business cycles, jobs had grown by an average of 8.8% and never less than 6.0%.
    • The unemployment rate is relatively low at 5%, but still higher than the 4% in 2000. Plus, the percent of the population that has a job has never recovered since the recession and is still 1.3% lower than in March 2001. If the employment rate had returned to pre-recession levels, 3 million more people would be employed.
    • More than 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since January 2000.

  4. Poverty is on the rise.
    • The poverty rate rose from 11.3% in 2000 to 12.7% in 2004.
    • The number of people living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since 2000.
    • More children are living in poverty: the child poverty rate increased from 16.2% in 2000 to 17.8% in 2004.

  5. Rising health care costs are eroding families' already declining income.
    • Households are spending more on health care. Family health costs rose 43-45% for married couples with children, single mothers, and young singles from 2000 to 2003.
    • Employers are cutting back on health insurance. Last year, the percent of people with employer-provided health insurance fell for the fourth year in a row. Nearly 3.7 million fewer people had employer-provided insurance in 2004 than in 2000. Taking population growth into account, 11 million more people would have had employer-provided health insurance in 2004 if the coverage rate had remained at the 2000 level.
Where's the good news? Certainly not in the propaganda that Dick and George are trying to peddle...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tancredo owes the apology

My latest letter to the Highlands Ranch Herald about Bill Winter and Tom Tancredo was published today.

I guess they are finally paying attention to residents who have complained about the lack of balance on their editorial page. I for one intend to keep the pressure on!

Denver's retail gasoline monopoly

Well, it didn't take long for ConocoPhillips' takeover of BP gas stations a couple of weeks ago to have a negative effect on the retail gasoline market in Denver. The latest report on shows that 12 of the 15 highest prices are at Conoco or Phillips stations. The Conoco and Phillips stations nearest me have raised their prices twice in the last 3-4 days, for a total increase of almost 25 cents per gallon.

I'm sure there is no collusion or price-fixing involved. Of course, if you believe that, I have some pre-war intelligence about WMDs in Iraq for sale -- cheap!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More on Bush's illegal spying

American Progress had this to say today about Bush's illegal spying on American citizens:
...any evidence from Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program is probably not admissible in court and suspected terrorists are already pursuing appeals. Bush’s actions have made it tougher for us to capture or kill the terrorists. Americans would be safer if President Bush worked within the law to track terrorists.
The sad thing is that the same information could have been obtained legally under the auspices of FISA. Unfortunately, George W. Bush and his cronies seem to think that they are above the law. I can't say that I am surprised by BushCo's latest illegal acts, given their record of malfeasance since 2000, including the vote counting irregularities in Florida.

You might wonder how the SCLM is covering this story. Well, the top story on right now is the arrest of a former Bronco player on armed robbery charges. No mention of the Bush-gate illegal spying scandal. What a surprise...

It's ironic that Bush continually justifies breaking the law by claiming that he answers to a higher law than the U.S. Constitution, given that he has twice sworn the Presidential oath:
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Personally, I can't understand how anyone could believe that commission of criminal acts by Bush is either moral or legal. Isaiah had something to say about immoral leaders and their immoral acts, which I think is very appropriate to Bush and his cronies:
Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights, so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help?
Unfortunately, those who seem to thump their Bibles the loudest have sold their souls to BushCo and won't say anything against him. They remind me of the Sadducees who worked in concert with Herod to capture and crucify Jesus, thus preserving their own wealth and power at the expense of those whom Christ came to free. The thumpers just love money and power too much, certainly more than they love God...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Fighting Dems

Media Girl has a discussion on the "fighting Dems." She quotes Dadahead:
Witness the fascination, especially among bloggers, with Democratic candidates who have military experience. Why anyone would think that being a veteran is an advantage for a Democrat, after the the flame-out of Wesley Clark and the swift-boating of John Kerry, is beyond me. But the delusion that Democrats can neutralize the GOP's advantage on 'national security' by running candidates who have worn a uniform persists.
Her contention:
I fear...a desire for a stereotypical "military man" to be the Democrats' version of the "strict father" leader. To me, that goes against what we need and plays right into the skewed frame the Republicans have set up.
I don't believe that Democrats are looking for veterans to assume the role of a Lakoff-esque "strict father." Instead, I think that Democrats are attracted to veterans because we believe that, having experienced the horrors of war, veterans would be less likely to commit American troops to combat before exhausting diplomacy, and would not embark on military adventurism based on questionable rationale.

I also disagree with the contention that Wes Clark "flamed out." There is no question that Clark made a rookie mistake by listening to bad advice and failing to contest the Iowa caucus. Being an Iowa farm boy myself, I know that Clark would have had a broad appeal among Iowans, and would have been a formidable challenger to Kerry and Edwards.

Dean - "Warrantless wiretapping is impeachable"

John Dean, who had a bird's eye view of presidential misconduct during the Nixon administration, has this insightful analysis of Bush's illegal wiretapping at Here are a couple of particularly interesting comments (emphasis added):

There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.

These parallel violations underscore the continuing, disturbing parallels between this Administration and the Nixon Administration...

and this:

The war in Iraq is not addressing terrorism; rather, it is creating terrorists, and diverting money from the protection of American interests.

which is what I have been saying since the beginning of Bush's fiasco...