Archive of Articles for March, 2011

From The Archives -- Saint Patrick And The Snakes

[ Posted Thursday, March 17th, 2011 – 13:37 UTC ]

Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, lived in the fifth century A.D., and he came to Ireland as a proselytizer for Christianity. That is about the sum total of the known, verifiable facts about Patrick. The rest is myth. Since such mythologizing began only a few hundred years after his death (which happened on March 17, by the way), these myths of Patrick are much more widely known than the thin shreds of his real history (which are limited to two surviving letters written by Patrick in Latin). Besides, it's much more fun to sit around telling these tales over a pint of Guinness than to dig up actual facts. Even if the tales are pure blarney.

Read Complete Article »

Democrats Play Some Offense

[ Posted Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 – 17:00 UTC ]

Are Democrats starting to play some offense? Three reports seem to lead to this conclusion, although at this point it is too early to tell what sort of effect this will have on the political landscape, for both the near future and for the 2012 election season. For now, it is refreshing to see Democrats pushing back on a few key issues, whatever their chances of legislative (or political) success happen to be. And the Democrats have picked three pretty good issues with which to launch this particular offensive -- the mortgage crisis, gay marriage, and taxing millionaires.

Read Complete Article »

Nuclear Speculation

[ Posted Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 – 17:50 UTC ]

Japan is currently experiencing a nuclear crisis which will go down in history alongside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl (to say nothing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima). But I've noticed that news reports are almost all full of nothing more than sheer speculation about what has actually happened, what is happening right now, and what may happen in the near future at the nuclear reactor complexes which have been affected. There's a reason for this, of course, and the reason is that nobody really knows exactly what is going on. This, however, is not what consumers of news wish to hear. Instead, we get a steady diet of speculation -- without any notification of the speculative nature of what we're being told. And without the speculation even being all that informative.

Read Complete Article »

The No-Fly Zone Decision

[ Posted Monday, March 14th, 2011 – 17:11 UTC ]

The world's opinion-makers, in both government and media, seem to have settled on the idea that imposing a "no-fly zone" over Libya would be a good idea for all concerned. Not everyone has jumped on this bandwagon yet, but it seems to be the most popular option under discussion by those advocating "doing something" about the situation in Libya. But would a no-fly zone really change the dynamic all that much? Even if it had been imposed two weeks ago, would it have achieved any real goal? These are hard questions to answer, but anyone advocating a no-fly zone (especially one largely imposed by the U.S. military) really does need to at least consider them.

Read Complete Article »

Friday Talking Points [158] -- In Non-Charlie-Sheen News...

[ Posted Friday, March 11th, 2011 – 17:38 UTC ]

And then -- you simply can't make this stuff up -- the anchor uttered the worst segue I think I've ever heard, possibly the worst in all of television news history: "We turn from the live feed of the tsunami in Japan to a police raid on Charlie Sheen's house in Los Angeles...."

Read Complete Article »

On Tactics

[ Posted Thursday, March 10th, 2011 – 17:23 UTC ]

To be fair, Democrats and Republicans alike are prone to doing this sort of thing. Both using political tactics such as these, and decrying them as being somehow "unfair." There's no monopoly by either party on this type of political hypocrisy. Yes, hypocrisy is the right word to use. Unless you'd prefer "political moral relativism of the worst kind," which is slightly more accurate but a little wordy. Either way, the equation reads: "This sort of thing is just fine when our side uses it, but downright evil when the other side does the same thing."

Read Complete Article »

Obama Challenges Republicans By Supporting Wyden-Brown

[ Posted Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 – 17:30 UTC ]

Last week, President Barack Obama tried to make some news on the healthcare issue. Unfortunately for him, the story was all but swallowed by bigger news (Libya, the budget fight, Charlie Sheen...). But this is a story which deserves some attention, because it might prove to be the answer to the endless bickering on Capitol Hill on what to do about the newly-passed healthcare law. Obama, by backing a bill put forth by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Scott Brown, has essentially tossed a gauntlet down in front of the Republican Party. The heart of Obama's challenge: "You think you can do healthcare reform better in your states? Fine. Go ahead and do it better."

Read Complete Article »

From The Archives -- Church And State Revisited: The Story Of Smoot

[ Posted Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 – 16:07 UTC ]

[Program Note: I know I just did one of these "re-run" columns last Thursday, and that it is probably way too soon to do another. Sometimes, I re-run columns because I have a dentist's appointment or have to get the car fixed or whatnot, but in both recent cases I am re-running the original column because I think the point made needs making once again. In other words, that the original column is relevant to a contemporary discussion. This week, Republican Representative Pete King is holding hearings in the House of Representatives on Islam and American Muslims. King has, in the past, not only made some rather disparaging comments about Muslims, but has also been on record supporting a terrorist group (the I.R.A.), so he brings a (shall we say) unique perspective to the table. But while we'll have to wait until Thursday to see just what gets said in these hearings, I thought it was pertinent to remind everyone that congressional hearings on religion have indeed happened before in this country. Granted, the situation is not exactly the same, but I feel the following is still instructive. I wrote this column right after Mitt Romney gave a speech on the campaign trail about his religion, for context.]

Read Complete Article »

What "The American People" Really Want

[ Posted Monday, March 7th, 2011 – 18:58 UTC ]

Ever since the midterm congressional election last year, Republicans have been repeating the phrase "The American People" as often as they can, as a sort of mantra. This isn't all that unusual, since politicians claiming a popular mandate is par for the course in the political game. But Republicans are exhibiting a rather large amount of overreach when it comes to claiming what "The American People" really want the government to do (and not to do). This is going to be on full display in the coming weeks, as the budget fights heat up (finishing this year's budget, raising the debt ceiling, and tackling next year's budget). Most Republicans, especially those of the Tea Party persuasion, are firmly convinced they've got a sweeping mandate to slash federal spending in all sorts of areas. But they may be surprised by what the public really thinks about these issues, and what they do and do not support. Helpfully, a new poll put out by the Wall Street Journal and NBC shows a clear list of priorities for what the people really want to see cut, and what they don't.

Read Complete Article »

Friday Talking Points [157] -- Eight Point Nine

[ Posted Friday, March 4th, 2011 – 18:06 UTC ]

While technically true ("job growth" is not the same thing as the unemployment rate), but that last sentence could also have been written as: "the unemployment rate fell at the fastest rate in over fifty years -- since 1958, to be exact." Both are true, and yet they tell very different stories -- "a grim nine percent" versus "fell at the fastest rate in over fifty years."

Read Complete Article »