Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gays in the military

It looks as if the stars may be aligning to the point where the U.S. will finally end its ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
It is long overdue.
The other day, the Top military officer in the country, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates both said the ban should be repealed.

The interesting thing about those two, aside from the fact that they are highest ranking authorities in the military today, is that they are both holdovers from the Bush administration and were first appointed by Republicans.
Their assessment was quickly seconded by Colin Powell, another Republican-appointee. Former Joint Chiefs chairman John Shalikashvili, came to the same conclusion several years earlier.

The evidence in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military is overwhelming. But that has never stopped Republicans before, (i.e. Global Warming) and we can be assured that they will do their best to drum up fears and resentments to oppose any changes and/or take political advantage of such changes when they do occur.

If asked, most people who oppose gays in the military would probably cite Biblical passages that denounce homosexuality as a sin. But then shouldn't they also expect anyone guilty of adultery to be banned from the military as well? Or how about people who take the Lord's name in vain?

Here is an interesting exercise:

Check out the list of countries that currently allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military:

Czech Republic
The Netherlands
New Zealand
South Africa
United Kingdom

Now compare it with the list of countries that do not:

North Korea
Saudi Arabia
South Korea
United States

Pretty striking isn't it? Doesn't the U.S. look a little out of place in that second list? Most of our NATO allies have ditched their antiquated anti-gay policies long ago. It is time for us to catch up and set an example for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Popular films return to the Oscars

Expanding the Best Picture nominees from five to 10 worked out well this year, I think.
For the first time in six years we have a Best Picture nominated film that cracked the Top 10 at the box office - actually, we have three of them: Avatar, Up and The Blind Side. And we have five films that have already grossed more than $100 million, with Inglorious Basterds and District 9 joining the three films above.

As I noted last year, that has not been the case in recent times. In fact, not counting the Lord of the Rings films from the beginning of the decade, there was only one Best Picture film during the past decade to crack the Top 10 (Chicago, which was No. 10 in 2002.)

And we still had room for the five films favored by the critics: The Hurt Locker, Precious, Up in the Air, A Serious Man, and An Education.

Without the expansion to 10 films, those bottom five would likely have been the Best Picture nominees this year continuing the Academy's tradition in recent years of snubbing popular films. I suppose there is a chance that Avatar may still have squeaked in to a spot, kind of like LOTR did, in place of say An Education or A Serious Man, but there definitely would not have been room for Up, The Blind Side, Inglorious Basterds and District 9.

As it is, I think there will be much more interest in the Academy Awards this year because they will be honoring films that people have actually seen, and they will be doing it without sacrificing any of the honors due the more high-brow, artsy films. Good news all around.

Monday, February 01, 2010

What do they think "socialism" is anyway?

A new poll by Research2000 of 2,000 self-identified Republicans reveals that 63 percent think President Obama is a Socialist.
Which begs the question - What on Earth do these people think a "socialist" is anway? I would be interested to find out, because I don't think they have a clue.
Socialism is an economic system where the government owns the means of production.
Recently, as a result of the grossly negligent and wrongheaded Republican policies of the George W. Bush administration, the federal government was forced to invest considerable sums of taxpayer dollars into the banking and automotive industries to keep them from collapsing and throwing the whole country into a second Great Depression.
Now the government is trying to recoup its money and get back out of the bailout business as quickly as possible. To call this arrangement - where the government is forced to take extraordinary measures to prop up a capitalist system - "socialism" is astoundingly ignorant.
And yet that is the claim that has been made consistently on Faux News and Rightwing Radio in an effort to tar Obama with the "socialist' label.
But I think a lot of the people on the right don't stop there. They have been throwing around the "socialist" charge long before the Bush/Republican economic collapse of 2008/09. I dare say many of them would label as "socialist" anyone who supports Social Security and/or Medicare. Anyone who supports a progressive tax system and any domestic/social spending by the government.
Apparently, as far as these people are concerned, the United States has been a "socialist" country since Roosevelt's New Deal pulled us out of the first Republican-caused Great Depression.
And so did this sharp turn towards "socialism" result in an economic catastrophe for our nation as they predict? Why no. Instead, our economy grew so rapidly that we became the most powerful nation on the planet - all under what they deem to be a socialist system.

Cheer up, Liberals!

If the video of President Obama taking Republican lawmakers to task last week isn't enough to cheer you up, then consider this:

Things are not as bad as they might seem right now for Democrats. Sure, there have been some setbacks recently, but taken as a whole this has been one of the most productive Congresses since the New Deal era, while giving President Obama the most legislative successes of any modern president...

A very productive Congress, despite what the approval ratings say

...this Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment.

The productivity began with the stimulus package, which was far more than an injection of $787 billion in government spending to jump-start the ailing economy. More than one-third of it -- $288 billion -- came in the form of tax cuts, making it one of the largest tax cuts in history, with sizable credits for energy conservation and renewable-energy production as well as home-buying and college tuition. The stimulus also promised $19 billion for the critical policy arena of health-information technology, and more than $1 billion to advance research on the effectiveness of health-care treatments.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has leveraged some of the stimulus money to encourage wide-ranging reform in school districts across the country. There were also massive investments in green technologies, clean water and a smart grid for electricity, while the $70 billion or more in energy and environmental programs was perhaps the most ambitious advancement in these areas in modern times. As a bonus, more than $7 billion was allotted to expand broadband and wireless Internet access, a step toward the goal of universal access.

Any Congress that passed all these items separately would be considered enormously productive. Instead, this Congress did it in one bill. Lawmakers then added to their record by expanding children's health insurance and providing stiff oversight of the TARP funds allocated by the previous Congress. Other accomplishments included a law to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco, the largest land conservation law in nearly two decades, a credit card holders' bill of rights and defense procurement reform.

The House, of course, did much more, including approving a historic cap-and-trade bill and sweeping financial regulatory changes. And both chambers passed their versions of a health-care overhaul.

And consider this as well....

The Quiet Revolution

These days, liberals don’t know whether to feel betrayed by or merely disappointed with Barack Obama. They have gone from decrying his willingness to remove the public option from his health care plan to worrying that, in the wake of Democrat Martha Coakley’s defeat in Massachusetts, he won’t get any plan through Congress. On other subjects, too, from Afghanistan to Wall Street, Obama has thoroughly let down his party’s left flank.

Yet there is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for--but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.

Oh, and by the way, the economy saw its biggest jump in growth during the fourth quarter in the past six years. Expect more news like that in 2010.