Politics Archive

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Texas Science Textbook Adoption

Stand Up for Science TexasI haven't written about the Texas School Board in a while, but it's time to, again. On November 22nd, the school board will have the final vote to adopt the currently proposed textbooks and other instructional materials. Now so far, things appear to be going the right way for our students' educations. Despite some school board members appointing creationists and other idealogues to the textbook review panels, and those idealogues making recommendtions against sound science, the publishers haven't made any changes undermining science education. There's still full support for evolution and climate change, the two big controversial points for the extremists.

If the final vote approves the recommended materials without any last minute shenanigans, then our students will at least have good science textbooks. But, given the school board's past behavior, it doesn't hurt to send the members a gentle reminder to vote properly. If you would like to send such a reminder to your representative, the links below provide you the means to do so (and please remember to be polite).


Links to Take Action:


Links for More Information:


Links to Past Entries on This Site Related to SBOE or TEA:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More Thoughts on the Government Shutdown, or !*#%!#@ Republicans

Political FightingI've written about my political affiliation previously:

As far as party affiliation goes, I'm an independent who usually votes Democratic, but not exclusively. I've never voted a straight Democratic ticket. I always try to look at individual candidates to decide who to vote for. It's just that more often than not, the Democratic candidates match my views more closely than the Republicans (and I'm not about to throw my vote away on a third party candidate).

But I have to say, it's getting harder and harder to take anyone seriously who associates themselves with the Republicans, and this latest stunt with the government shutdown is about the last straw in my mind. It doesn't matter how much they disagree with the Affordable Care Act, holding the government and economy hostage to try to achieve their goals is unacceptable. It's not the way our government is supposed to work, and is quite frankly un-American.

The Republican talking point about trying to claim that Democrats have refused to negotiate is horse puckey. Take a look at the article, 19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans, for a list of all the times the Democrats tried to enter into negotiations with the Republicans before it came to this.

I'm also tired of hearing about them supporting the 'will of the people'. Go read this article, Poll: Don't Shut Down the Government Over Obamacare, reporting on a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Even on the point where the Republicans are closest to reality, the number of people favoring or opposing the Affordable Care Act, they still don't have a good case. Roughly 45 percent of people support the Affordable Care Act, while around 47% oppose it. That's a pretty even split, and not even a majority in opposition. So, according to that poll, Republicans are basing this whole fight on a law that less than half the country disapproves of. Granted, other polls do show the numbers skewed a bit more towards disapproval, but nowhere near an overwhelming majority - nothing that calls for the type of scorched earth approach they've taken.

But, that was the one point with the most support for Republicans. Look at another stat, and it's far worse. A full 72% of those polled opposed shutting down the government in an effort to defund the law. According to another article, Poll Shows Disapproval of Threat of Government Shutdown, it was 8 out of 10 who disapproved of the Republicans' tactics. So the House Republicans can't even pretend that they're representing the will of the people here. They're hijacking the country in an effort to enforce the wishes of around 1/4 of the population.

I could go on an on venting about this situation, but it's difficult not to devolve into using strings of four letter words. Instead, I'll post a couple links to people that have already made the points I was thinking. The first of these is more humorous, from Tom Tomorrow. I'm only showing the first panel - click on it to read the full thing.

The second is an article by Charles Pierce, The Reign Of Morons Is Here. Here's the opening, to give you an idea of what to expect.

Only the truly naive can be truly surprised.

Only the truly child-like can have expected anything else.

In the year of our Lord 2010, the voters of the United States elected the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. There have been Congresses more dilatory. There have been Congresses more irresponsible, though not many of them. There have been lazier Congresses, more vicious Congresses, and Congresses less capable of seeing forests for trees. But there has never been in a single Congress -- or, more precisely, in a single House of the Congress -- a more lethal combination of political ambition, political stupidity, and political vainglory than exists in this one, which has arranged to shut down the federal government because it disapproves of a law passed by a previous Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that does nothing more than extend the possibility of health insurance to the millions of Americans who do not presently have it, a law based on a proposal from a conservative think-tank and taken out on the test track in Massachusetts by a Republican governor who also happens to have been the party's 2012 nominee for president of the United States. That is why the government of the United States is, in large measure, closed this morning.

It's hard to describe how disgusted I am with the Republican party right now. I didn't have a very high opinion of them before, but they've gone and lowered the bar to a depth I wouldn't have guessed it could reach.


Related Entries (i.e. the government shutdown, and general Republican stupidity):

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brief Thoughts on the Looming Government Shutdown

Republican ElephantI've had a busy week, skipping or working through lunch breaks, so I didn't have much time to devote to this blog. But there's something going on in the news right now that I couldn't resist mentioning - what in the hell is wrong with Republicans?

There's a simple problem with a simple solution. If Congress doesn't authorize government spending, then the government can't spend money on many programs, and many parts of government will get shut down. If that happens, many peole would be affected, from the employees who wouldn't be getting their paychecks, to citizens who wouldn't be getting certain services (for example, the parks would shut down, and passports would cease to be issued). Depending on how long the shutdown lasted, it could have significant effects on the already slow economic recovery (read more - CNN - How a shutdown could affect the economy). So, the simple solution is to pass a resolution to keep the government funded, even if it's only temporary, and let the politicians hash out their disagreements later in the normal manner with the government still running.

But Republicans, at least of the Tea Party variety, have chosen this as an opportunity to hold the government and the economy hostage, all because of the Affordable Care Act. It's crazy. The Affordable Care Act was passed through the regular democratic process. It was voted on by duly elected representatives and became law. The House has made numerous failed attempts to repeal the law. And even if they want to continue efforts to repeal the law, this sure as hell isn't the time, place, or manner to do it. I mean, it's not as if the Democrats are pushing some new law they want to get passed, or a law they don't like that they want to get repealed. They're not using this as an opportunity for enhanced gun control laws. They're simply doing the responsible thing, trying to keep the government funded. Why are Republicans setting an ultimatum that has nothing to do with the issue at hand?

I'm reminded of a quote by Mike Lofgren concerning the previous debt ceiling debate that I included in my entry, Thoughts from a Retired Republican:

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was "bring it on!"

Now, I realize that Democrats are by no means perfect, but can't we as a nation decide to get rid of these Tea Party clowns and get some responsible, reasonable people back in charge of the government?

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Response to Another E-mail on U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

UN Flag LogoI've received another e-mail that's prompted a response on my part (the full text of the e-mail is available below the fold). This e-mail had to do with the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, and the recent vote in the Senate on an amendment to a budget resolution to try to prevent the U.S. from entering into that treaty.

I've heard of the Arms Trade Treaty previously, and blogged about it in the entry, Response to Article on U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. As in that previous article, this e-mail was trying to paint the treaty as a U.N. / Obama attempt to take away Americans' right to own guns. Here's a paragraph from this most recent e-mail.

The U.N. Small Arms Treaty, which has been championed by the Obama Administration, would have effectively placed a global ban on the import and export of small firearms. The ban would have affected all private gun owners in the U.S., and had language that would have implemented an international gun registry on all private guns and ammo.

So, how true is all this, and what is the treaty really about? You can follow the link below to see how the UN describes the treaty in their own words.
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs - The Arms Trade Treaty

Here's the opening paragraph from that page:

On 2 April 2013, the General Assembly adopted the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), regulating the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The treaty will foster peace and security by putting a stop to destabilising arms flows to conflict regions. It will prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools.

That sounds noble enough, but from looking into this treaty previously, I knew there were potential issues that the U.S. was concerned about with its earlier drafts. You can go to the State Department's website to read what they have to say about the treaty, and the aspects that they pushed for to make sure that the treaty didn't infringe upon U.S. sovereignty or the rights of our citizens.
United States Department of State - Arms Trade Treaty

In particular, here is a list of key points from that page that the U.S. insisted upon.

KEY U.S. REDLINES
  • The Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld.
    • There will be no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.
    • There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.
  • The U.S. will oppose provisions inconsistent with existing U.S. law or that would unduly interfere with our ability to import, export, or transfer arms in support of our national security and foreign policy interests.
  • The international arms trade is a legitimate commercial activity, and otherwise lawful commercial trade in arms must not be unduly hindered.
  • There will be no requirement for reporting on or marking and tracing of ammunition or explosives.
  • There will be no lowering of current international standards.
  • Existing nonproliferation and export control regimes must not be undermined.
  • The ATT negotiations must have consensus decision making to allow us to protect U.S. equities.
  • There will be no mandate for an international body to enforce an ATT.

That sounds pretty reassuring, but I know not everybody trusts everything the government says. So, below is a link to a paper published by a reputable third party, The American Bar Association. They took a close look at the treaty to determine whether or not it would infringe upon Americans' Second Amendment rights.
Document Cloud - American Bar Association Center for Human Rights White Paper

Here were the opening three paragraphs of that paper, with a couple key phrases put in bold by me:

This White Paper discusses whether the July 26, 2012, President's draft of the Arms Trade Treaty ("the proposed ATT") conflicts with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. As detailed below, it concludes that the proposed ATT is consistent with the Second Amendment, as that provision has been construed to date by the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of the United States.

The proposed ATT would obligate the United States to block the transfer of conventional arms across U.S. borders where certain conditions are met. In particular, the proposed ATT would obligate the United States to block both exports and imports of covered arms across its borders whenever those transfers pose an overriding risk of causing certain adverse consequences, including: serious human rights abuse, war crimes, or terrorist acts.

As currently drafted, the treaty would not require new domestic regulations of firearms. Given that existing statutes regulating the import and export of such weapons have withstood constitutional scrutiny in the U.S. courts for decades, it is unlikely that the proposed treaty would compromise Second Amendment rights. Even if a court found that future acts of the President or Congress in implementing the Arms Trade Treaty did not comply with the Second Amendment, such acts or the Treaty itself would be void.

So, we have the UN saying that the treaty is meant to stop human rights abuses, the State Department saying they insisted upon preservation of Americans' Second Amendment rights before considering the treaty, and a respected third party, the American Bar Association, verifying that the treaty won't affect our Second Amendment rights. The opposition to this treaty sounds like fear mongering on the part of various right wing organizations.

Here are a few more links, from an admittedly left leaning source, to provide a counter point to all the right leaning stories I'm sure many of you have seen already:

It's also interesting to note that only three countries voted against the treaty - North Korea, Iran, and Syria - not exactly the countries you want to be grouped with.

As far as final approval of the treaty, it still has to go through the formal approval process with the President and the Senate. This recent vote by the Senate was merely symbolic, and doesn't actually mean anything.

Now, the State Department still needs to closely review the treaty and make sure that everything in the final version is okay, but the current opposition seems so irrational. It's based on a fear that by all indications doesn't match with reality.

The e-mail I received said to take careful note of who voted in opposition to the amendment, i.e. those in favor of at least considering the treaty. I would agree - they were the only sensible politicians in the Senate. And I would add that you should also note who voted in opposition to the treaty - the ones obstructing progress in the world. Unsurprisingly given the current political environment, the vote fell nearly along party lines. Not a single Republican opposed the anti-treaty amendment, and only a few Democrats supported it. Given the purpose of the treaty to try to stop human rights abuses, and the fact that the U.N., the U.S. State Department, and the American Bar Association have all stated that it will not affect Americans' right to own guns, you have to wonder just what the opposition is thinking. Even if the treaty turned out to have provisions that would attempt to limit our gun ownership rights, it would be superseded by the Constitution, so there's really no danger at all. Why would they out of hand oppose a treaty with such noble goals? Is political showmanship more important to these people than are the victims of tyrannical regimes and terrorists?

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boy Scouts to Allow Gay Youth

Boy Scout Logo with Rainbow FlagThe headline of this article says it all, Boy Scouts to allow gay members but ban on gay and atheist leaders continues. It's a step in the right direction, at least. As an Eagle Scout myself, I can attest to how important scouting was in my life. And I've mentioned before that I think it should be open to all boys who want to participate. It's absolutely wonderful that the organization has finally decided to allow openly gay boys to join. But the BSA still has a few spots left to address - gay leaders and atheists. I hope they can address those shortcomings soon.

Image Source: IndianasNewsCenter.com

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