Monday, May 23, 2011

Before you blame Obama for the Debt

Ronald Reagan increased the national debt by around 189%!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Most awesome quote EVER!!!

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."

When I think about all I've learned about Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith and John Locke and Rousseau- and then I contrast Jesus' teachings to Machiavelli, holy cow but this Wendell Berry quote is phenomenal. It sums up so much of what I believe.

We're all in this together folks.

Don't you think we were put her to help each other if and when we can? Why is it immoral to help and be helped? All that authoritarian malarkey about making people dependent on you is an excuse to be selfish and competitive. You want to keep following Ronald Reagan and be rugged individualists or Ayn Rand and be greedy fascists and paranoid anarchists- go right ahead, I obviously can't convince you not to.

Me, I'm happier with Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. I'd rather be positive, constructive, and interconnected than angry, suspicious and defensive. If you think I'm some kind of "Socialist" for believing that government is her to protect us from corporations instead of corporations being here to protect us from government- then I guess that's the way it's gonna be, but we're still all in this together even if you don't want us to be.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We're all in this together

Reagan's Budget Director David Stockman and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have both sharply criticized the budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan. Stockman was on NPR's "On Point" this morning explaining how we all need to share the sacrifice and essentially that supply-side economics won't work anymore (though he didn't actually admit it that blatantly). He admitted that we need to focus some on revenues (restoring taxes to pre-Bush levels). And he was pretty emphatic that we need to be realistic and pragmatic about austerity. We can't just continue to postpone/borrow our way into not worrying about deficits. He even recommended drastically reducing military spending.

Gingrich on the other hand started backpedaling after being chastised by fellow conservatives.

Stockman's still no Keynesian, but I have tremendous respect for his serious and mature take on the mess we're in. Bottom line, right-wingers are intractable on the dogmas (they've gone way beyond doctrine at this point) of opposition to taxes and insistence on cutting everything but defense. On the other hand, the establishment Democrats (that is, those in power, notice I didn't call them left, liberal or even progressive) keep saying that there's nothing really wrong and that all we need to do about the debt ceiling and the impending problems for entitlements is to bring in more smoke and mirrors to help us rearrange numbers. 

You might be surprised to hear me agree with a Reaganite, but I've been a deficit hawk long before it became politically expedient for Republicans to be. I say bring back PAGO (the pay-as-you-go rules in Congress). I may like John Maynard Keynes a lot more than Ayn Rand, but I'd almost go so far as to think of myself as relatively conservative fiscally. 

It's time for both sides to let go of tribal and partisan tenants of faith and hash tings out together. We're ALL in this together. Eliminating all the tax loopholes corporate and otherwise is a great place to start. 

I was talking to a friend about this kind of thing recently in regards to school funding here in Iowa. Sales taxes hurt consumers and renters (poor & working class), property taxes hurt home owners and  farmers (middle and upper-middle class), and commercial taxes supposedly hinder business and growth. Somehow we ALL need to share the burden. Before he backed down under party pressure, Gingrich characterized the Ryan plan as "social engineering," something that Republicans are constantly accusing Democrats as conspiring to do (Socialism- eek!). Gingrich was spot-on. If giving corporations the same rights as individuals while taking away the rights of organized labor, and dismantling the social safety nets isn't systematically maneuvering to establish a more oligarchical than egalitarian arrangement- then I don't know what it is.

I think that the right has gone so far toward the extremes of either corporatism and/or libertariansism, that those of us who used to be centrists are painted as "liberal." I've never advocated for Marxist revolution and I doubt that I ever will, but for God's sake, isn't it about time that we returned to a a little common sense? Should a Democratic president really have to stretch way over to the corporatist side just to appear as if he's trying to find some common ground? Whenever there are calls for compromise and bipartisanship it basically means that the Fraidy-crats are caving in to the Crazy-cans again.

Stockman's most important sentiment is that we all need to grow-up and get to work on fixing things instead of constantly seeing who can appeal most to voters' basest fears.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Perennial Stress-Out

Started out with 11 candidate, now 4 are backing out...
and I moved tryouts from today till next week due to Track meets, but guess what? Softball practice & games all nxt week AND we had girls qualify for State Track Meet- which is the day of my tryout!!!

Here's a note that I sent to our faculty and to some veteran cheerleaders, begging for them to put pressure on kids-

Teachers/Staff- I really need your help!  
Last week I had 11 candidates planning on trying out for cheer. I was excited, finally a real tryout, the chance to pick the best 6 out of 11- just what our cheer program needs. Kids who will get enjoy each other and that the fans will respond to.
Just yesterday, three of these candidates told me that they're opting out, citing grades, other sports and needing jobs. I reminded them that because so many of them have experience in either junior high or dance/gymnastics that if they make Cheer, it will really be a minimum time commitment. They can Cheer even if they play VB or are on Drill. They're likely to spend Friday night at the game anyway, so surely cheering won't put a strain on their grades.
Please encourage any of them that you think would make outstanding cheerleaders. Tell them how great a job you think they'd do. Tell them how much BV needs them to set a positive example and raise school spirit. 
After coaching cheer for 18 years now, I firmly believe that Cheerleading provides kids with confidence, poise, and leadership.
It also promotes school spirit, pride, enthusiasm, identity, community and sportsmanship for the whole school. 
So, say something to some of these girls today about how exciting it would be for BV if they were a part of that. If you don't see them today, do it this weekend or early next week.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seasons when we only get 5 girls come out and then having one or two quit, one or two move away and one or two end up ineligible due to grades. I can't do this alone. We're all in this together. Please do what you can.
Thank you all for your support! 
Will be FreshmenAlly Kahl- Mom's not sureMarissa Bruck- Hasn't turned in paperwork yetJamie Platner- Concerned about behavior as 8th graderJennifer Zehner-
Will be SophomoresKatie Cogdill- Not sureKelsi Segebart- Deciding not toTaylor Rassell-
Will be JuniorsEmmie Wood-
Lexi Seuntjens- Deciding not to
Will Be SeniorsKayla Sternberg- Vacillating Cammey Hast- Worried about having to put up with too many Freshmen! 

Monday, May 09, 2011

Excellent Quote

“My darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold, the outer day-lit world was stumbling and groping in social blindness” ~Helen Keller

Inspiring wisdom

"The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker."

"People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant."

"There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his."

"Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained."

~Helen Keller

I was looking for just one Keller quote that I saw on a mural in the Polk County Activities Center this weekend. I never could find it, but I did find a whole slew, which I posted on this and two other blogs! You knew that Keller overcame deafness and blindness to become an inspiring speaker and accomplished author- but did you know that she was an outspoken opponent of war, that she she campaigned for women's right to vote, workers' rights, racial tolerance and many other progressive causes?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Are things looking up?

Three lively, fun girls; two Freshman and a Sophomore just came by my room to pick up forms.

Candidly, along with the Junior Cammey and 8th Grader Ally (who was JrHi Mascot this year) this would make a pretty decent crew. I will keep the posters up and running the announcements because there were at least 4 or 5 other kids whom I knew were interested at one time. I sent an email out to cheer alumna to volunteer to help judge.

The ugly part of having to have actual tryouts would be having to cut kids that I care about, to whom cheer is important. On the other hand, having higher energy, more initiative, more pride, more volume, and maybe even more dance/gymnastic skills are all great reasons to maintain a weeding-out process.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, let the Lord take care of the rest.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Trying to understand Islam and the Middle East

In the wake of the capture and death of Alqueda leader Osama bin Laden and the "Arab Spring" or " Jasmine" revolutions going on in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iran, and Libya- I think it's a good idea to try to understand the Middle East.

Some think that it's only about Palestine. Within Palestine, Fatah and Hamas (both Muslim groups) are fighting each other. Others think that all Muslims are the same and hate America. Just as in Judaism there are Reform Jews, Orthodox Jews, Hasidic Jews, and many more; and just as in Christianity there are Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic and Protestant- and within Protestantism there's Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc. etc. etc.- Islam is not just one religion. Muslims have an infinite variety of different religious, social, and political views.

In the following column, I tried to untangle the complex variety of traditions. Admittedly, this is only the tip of the ice berg.

Originally published in the Charter Oak-Ute NEWSpaper & Schleswig Leader- Thursday, August 17, 2006

The most important thing to remember about the Middle East is to remember that it's not any ONE thing. It's LOTS of very different things. Too many supposed "experts" on TV "news" fail to differentiate between all these different and not always directly related, complicated things.

"Muslims" are followers of "Islam" (God's way). They believe that God, ("Allah"- that is "the One worthy to be praised" ) is this "Jehovah" of the original Jews, but that somehow they have gone terribly wrong. They believe that Allah's final and most important prophet was a guy by the name of "Mohammed."

I guess the mountain wouldn't come to him, so he went to it and they believe Allah gave him the last word in scripture, the Koran (sometimes spelled Qur'an).

There are 5 "pillars" believers must adhere to in this faith; 1) belief in only one (not triune) god and that Muhammad is his prophet, 2) daily prayer, 3) concern and giving charity for the poor, 4) self-purification through fasting, and 5) making a pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca if you have the means. This is where they believe that Abraham built an altar with his son Ishmael. Whenever they pray, Muslims face the Kaaba, no matter where they are in the world.

But Islam is by no means uniform. First there's Sunnah ("the Muslim way of life") followed by Sunni Muslims. They have a second book besides the Koran, called the Hadith. In theory, this form of Islam is pacifist and they think of Mohammed and the Koran as absolutely inerrant only when it comes to theology, but not necessarily so for civil and cultural law. This is the biggest denomination in Islam, 80%. They think that Mohammed set up a council of "Imans", or leaders after his death.

Then there's Shi'a, practiced by Shiites, 20% if Muslims. They think that Muhammad's Koran is the absolute inerrant word of Allah on all topics. You might call them "Fundamentalist." They're much more militant. They believed that Mohammed appointed his cousin (who was also his sin-in-law) his sole successor.

But there is also "Ibadi" Islam, an even more conservative sect set up
50 years after Mohammed's death in Oman. And then there's Wahhabism. This is an extremist, fundamentalist sect of Sunnism. "Wahhabi" is a pretty funny sounding name, that's probably why they prefer to call themselves. "Salafist."

"Salaf" means "the earlier generations. They follow the teachings of their founder, Muhammad ibn al Wahhab. They believe that they are the ONLY true practitioners of Islam, not merely a sect. (Sounds like lots of Christians I know.) As you can imagine, they are going to hate Shiites like the Irish Protestants hate Irish Catholics. They are
going to resent mainstream Sunnis the way "born-again" fundamentalists think that main-line Christians are somehow lazy hypocrites.

Osama bin Laden and Alqueda, the perpetrators of the 911 attacks are Wahhabists. Bin Laden may be hiding out in either Afghanistan or Pakistan but he is from Saudi Arabia. They are predominantly Sunni, own lots of oil, have a royal family, NOT a democracy, and they're supposedly our allies. We gave bin Laden and other groups in Afghanistan tons of money and weapons in the 1980's to fight the Soviet Union.

Bin Laden loathed and hated Saddam Hussein, but not as much as America. Saddam Hussein is a non-religious Sunni. His Ba'athist party was nationalistic and fascist. It's ironic because Iraq isn't one nation. It's a bunch of nationalities pieced together first after WWI and then again after WWII. There are Sunnis, Shiahs, Kurds, Turks, a handful of Jews and Christians. All of whom pretty much hate each other. That may be why it's basically disintegrated into chaos. The poor majority of Iraqis were Shiite and had been persecuted by Hussein.

We gave Hussein tons of money and weapons in the '80's to fight Iran and so he'd like us more than the Soviet Union.

Muhamoud Ahmadinejad is the current President of Iran, who hates Iraq (they had a war in the '80's). Iran used to be one of our greatest allies in the Middle East until they had a revolution in 1979. Their Shah, or king, who violated lots of human rights and lived a pretty extravagant lifestyle at his subject's expense. We gave the Shah lots of money and weapons so he'd like us more than the Soviet Union.

You might remember their revolution was led by a the Ayatollah (supreme leader) Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, who practiced a mystic version of Shi'a called Irfan- sort of like what Salafism is to Sunnism.

As you may have heard, Ahmadinejad wants nuclear power- we think he want's the bomb. (Pakistan and Israel both have the bomb. Pakistan and India hate each other, Iran pretty much hates Israel, but I'm not sure why, except that their Jews.) You also may remember that our President indelicately characterized Iran as part of an "Axis of Evil" in a speech a few years ago, along with North Korea two countries that have absolutely nothing to do with each other or with bin Laden or Alqueda.

Back in the '80's the Reagan Administration had Israel sell weapons to Iran for us and then we used the proceeds to fund a band of right-wing terrorists called the "Contras" in Nicaragua. Remember that one?

Lebanon used to be a pretty westernized, country just North of Israel. Last year they held these big protests to get rid of a President who supported a political movement called Hezbolah who are supported by Syria, which is just east of Israel and sort of West of Iran and Iraq. But their new President didn't bother to disarm Hezbolah or get them away from the Israeli border.Yes, "disarm." See Hezbollah is a political party and a paramilitary movement, kind of like "Sinn Fein" is the political version of the Irish Republican Army.

Hezbolah's Secretary General is a guy named Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. They like to mix politics and religion. They're Shiites and Hezbolah means "the party of God." (Sounds like "Conservative-Christians.") Anyway, they don't think Israel should
exist since it was pretty much created by the U.N. after WWII and they want Lebanese prisoners released by Israel. All the latest hubbub started when they kidnapped a couple of Israeli policemen.

Meanwhile, Israel had hoped to have peace with the Palestinians (Muslims who claim to have been displaced when Israel was created.) Unfortunately the political party called "the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)" was replaced in democratic elections this past year by a party called "Hamas."

"Hamas" means "The Islamic Resistance Movement" Hamas are Sunni, so they hate Hezbollah for being Shi'a, but of course, they hate Israel more. Many Palestinian expatriates living in Saudi Arabia and Syria send their support to Hamas, who demand that Israel pull out of Gaza and the West Bank area along the Jordan river. With the PLO, Israel had been negotiating peaceful coexistence. Two nations in one place, so to speak.

So, it should be clear that it's not so clear. What is clear is that this is a time and a region that requires delicate diplomacy. I appreciate the desire to "take the battle to the terrorists," and that waiting for politicians and diplomats to work can be frustrating because it doesn't seem as satisfyingly clear and concrete as firm military action- but it just seems to be part of a cycle of counter production.

Middle Easterners (regardless of whether they're Muslim or not or which strain of Islam) resent America for our decadence or for our meddling in everybody else's affairs (playing policeman to the world) or because of our influence over their oil. But they aren't necessarily out to take over the world and attack all Jews and Christians. They
disagree with, resent, and even hate each other too much to cooperate that much.

We still haven't caught bin Laden, five years after the first 9/11 attacks and we've strained our military and resources (not to mention American and Iraqi lives) on an unnecessary invasion of Iraq- that had nothing to do with Alqueda or 9/11.

Israel's reaction to Hezbollah may have been excessive, but this doesn't have to become WWIII. When something similar happened in the '90's, President Clinton called up the President of Syria and asked him to get Hezbollah to back off and they did.

The "War on Terror" was supposed to be taking out Alqueda, not taking on every last group that uses terrorist tactics, not an excuse to try to recreate an entire region the way we'd like it and certainly not an excuse to chip away at our own Constitutional rights and freedoms.

Maybe it's time we remembered that. Who knows, maybe if we did, it might even have a positive effect on fuel prices. It's hard to sort out, but it's important to try, because thinking is the only way to solve problems instead of making them worse.