Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Political Correctness?

A month or so ago I was reading something when someone said that All in the Family and The Jeffersons wouldn't have made it on TV today because they weren't politically correct.  Clearly, I'm missing something or the term has reached the point of meaninglessness, which is more likely.

Originally, saying something was politically correct was shorthand for saying being rigidly within the bounds of not saying something that might offend, particularly if those who might be offended were anything but white males.  Which is to say, it's a term created by white males petulantly whining that they couldn't insult people at will without being called on it.  Not that people couldn't be criticized on the basis of the substance of differences in actions or opinions.  Just that it wasn't legitimate to insult based on ethnicity or gender alone.  Wah, wah, wah.  White guys.  A lot of us sure are babies.

But All in the Family and The Jeffersons?  These two sitcoms were all about criticizing the stereotypes and prejudices of white males, especially the former.  The latter hoist the ego of George Jefferson on its own petard, skewering his own various prejudices.  Both used irrational statements by the lead character to show how that sort of bigoted thinking didn't make sense.  The shows weren't violating some sort of code of political correctness.  They were using coarse, unsupported opinions as a means to educate and amuse, actually supporting the political correctness of not letting insults fly without consequence.

A brief aside, too.  I don't know how anyone can say that these shows wouldn't make it today because they're not politically correct.  Has this person not seen the idiocy that is Two and a Half Men or The Big Bang Theory?  Talk about insults on intelligence.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Litte Seen

I'm back.  I know you didn't miss me because you're not reading in the first place.

I'll start on a happy note.  Way back on May 23, the Baltimore Sun ran a piece by Trang Diem Vu, a soon to graduate of Johns Hopkins University.  She was going to be going to the Mayo Clinic for medical school.  The same day, her sister would be graduating from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and beginning a residency.  Nothing terribly unusual in that, nor even that their family had come to the US only in 1990.  Immigrants working hard to have their children seize opportunities is a long story in the US.

What's unusual is that she didn't sell it as a "pulling up by my own bootstraps" sort of thing that's been twisted into a level of rationalization for selfishness that's dumbfounding.  No, "I got mine, screw you!" that's so prevalent in the Know Nothing movement.

Instead, she took the time to write this piece to thank all those who helped her.  In particular she thanked the city of Baltimore, a much maligned institution in Maryland.  She sings the praises of neighbors and teachers and many programs in the city and its schools that are in place to help the econimically distressed achieve.  She had an extended communtiy, Vietnamese, black, and white, that helped her and her sister to be fluent in English and achieve in school.

As she says, the graduation ceremony "is the peak to which the city of Baltimore has carried me and my family."
Congratulations to her for recognizing that she's not traveling life alone, that success is not a singular achievement, but one of community and caring.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wave Goodbye

I have friends across the gamut of the political spectrum, so I get all kinds of propaganda on Facebook.  I have the strictly Christian relatives, whose political views aren't part of the frequent postings but whose postings are generally promoting a non-specific Christianity ('cause we all know there are a plethora of sects on that).  I have HS friends who subscribe to religious right opinions.  I have Libertarian leaning friends, who fortunately use their brains a lot more than the strictly Know Nothing sorts.  Surprisingly, the least frequent postings I see are from left leaning friends.  Not the usual chatter postings.  They have plenty of them.  They just don't put up a lot of political stuff.  Except my brother.  He does plenty.

So, that brings me to the point.  On the side of those opposing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), there's much gnashing of teeth that the government is forcing people to buy a product.  There's a certain amount of irony in that because the Democrats, on the whole, would have preferred a government run system of single payer insurance for all, but couldn't get that through with all the cries of socialism from the GOP.  Instead, the ACA is a GOP plan.  As we all know, it's the current GOP standard bearer's plan, which he now disowns.  Ah, hypocrisy, thy name is Romney.

The problem with the objection that the government (federal, in this case) is forcing citizens to buy a product is that the ship for objecting to that sailed long ago.  At the state level most states force citizens (and non-citizens, too) to buy auto insurance.  They also charge you a bunch of fees, taxes by another name, to register a car, get license, and all sorts of other things related to cars. 

Now, many argue that a person doesn't have to buy a car, which is true, albeit disingenuous in our car based transportation world.  Ok.  But the governments at the local, state and federal levels require taxpayers to buy all sorts of things, albeit indirectly.  We're buying highways and equipment.  We're buying food for those who can't afford it.  We're buying anything that the government buys.  It's our money, at some point.

Of course, legally speaking, the ACA isn't requiring anyone to buy anything.  You have a choice between buying health coverage (or obtaining it through your employer or the government) or paying a tax (fee) if you choose not to buy the coverage.  Guess what?  This has been going on for a very long time.  Ever heard of the mortgage tax credit?  You can buy a house and get the credit, if you have a mortgage, or you can not buy a house and pay more in taxes.  Same thing with the marriage tax credit and deductions for dependents.  You can choose to get married and have kids, getting deductions on your taxes, or you can choose not to and pay more in taxes.  It's the same thing.

Sure, it doesn't fly off the lips as readily as socialism or totalitarian alien, but then, reasoned thinking isn't a sound bite.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's a Derby (Demolition, that is)

What to do when the voices who are supposed to propogate reasoned information that promotes public safety instead misinform and promote anarchy?  Well, in my case, the solution is to get on here and bitch about it.

Two recent examples come to mind.  Both are legally incorrect.  I know because I'm both a lawyer and somoene who works in auto claims in Maryland. 

First, there's a new law in Maryland that's designed to protect police and EMTs and such from getting killed by morons driving recklessly and speedily.  There's no question it's a dangerous place to be when a cop pulls someone over for speeding or something.  Highway shoulders aren't affording any protection from the morons who drive too fast and lose control.  So, Maryland passed a law that says anyone passing an emergency personnel vehicle with lights activated has to either slow down to 10 mph below the posted speed limit or move over a lane.  It has to be that either/or because not every place that cops pull someone over has more than one lane, unless you want to compound the situation and have people crossing the center line into oncoming traffic.  Anyway, the State Highway Administration and the police are putting out there only one part of the law, the having to move over a lane.  This means that traffic is effectively funneling into only one lane on most highways whenever a cop is on the shoulder, jamming up traffic and making accidents more likely.  It may be the preference of the cops that traffic move over a lane, but it's not the law and it's creating dangerous situations.

Worse than that is the traffic light admonition being promulgated in local media.  Maryland had severe storms blow through on June 29, which caused a lot of traffic lights to be out at intersections.  Every local station, radio or TV, is telling people to treat these intersections as 4 way stops.  Problem is, that's not the law in Maryland.  They're only supposed to be treated as 4 way stops if the intersecting roads are the same size (i.e. both are 2 lanes in each direction).  If one road is larger (i.e. 2 lanes in each direction versus 1 lane in each direction), then the larger road has the right of way.  So, someone who knows the law and is proceeding along a major road with the right of way now has people pulling out in front of them from smaller roads because the local news is telling them the person on the major road is supposed to stop as though it were 4 way stop.  I smell major accidents and possibly litigation against the stations spreading the misinformation.  Now that would be interesting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, USA!

I like flags.  I mentioned that, right? 

So, in honor of the nation's birthday, here are some flags through its history, including a few before it was actually a separate country.

From 1775, this was a Continental Navy flag.  It wasn't about Federal taxes.  Really.

Also from 1775, this was the Sons of Liberty flag.

Clearly, 1775 was a busy year for flags.  Probably had something to do with there not being an actual country or central authority.  This was a New England, though the tree puts me in mind of California.

Now, this is probably my favorite, combining my two favorite countries as it does.  This one dates to 1776 and was the Grand Union flag, making obvious the ongoing connection to Britain despite the conflicts.

The better known flag from 1776, the famous Betsy Ross version.

A new favorite for me.  This was a Maryland regiment's flag at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina in 1777.  Evidently the original is in the Maryland State House.  I'll have to get a copy to fly at my house.

This one's called the Indian Peace flag and is from 1803.  I don't suppose the Indians found much peaceful about it.

The Great Star flag from 1837.  No idea why the stars were configured this way.  Not much standardization back in those days.

The symmetry in this 1847 flag is interesting.  Reminds me of Chinese Checkers, though.

This was the flag flown at Ft Sumter in 1861.  Some 14 years and 4 more states later someone was trying to keep the 1847 design going.  Looks more like Space Invaders than Chinese Checkers.

Post Civil War, this 1877 flag is curiously amateur looking. Does everyone claim to be the biggest star?

After 1877 the flags more or less fall into line and keep the same basic idea as our current flag, just adding in new states as necessary.  There hasn't been a change in the flag since 1960 when our last states were added.  Puerto Rico, we're waiting for you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Switch in Time?

Hoo Rah!  It's time for the conspiracy nuts to crawl out of the woodwork.  The Supreme Court, as we all know by now, decided that the colloquially named Obamacare is constitutional, by a 5-4 vote.  What's interesting in that is who was the 5th vote in favor of upholding the law.  Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote and wrote the opinion.

This makes two cases where he sided with the liberal side of the court (Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsberg & Breyer) and against the "conservatives" (Scalia, Thomas & Alito).  Surprisingly, Chief Justice Roberts had voted against Arizona's restrictive immigration tactics as an affront to an area specifically designated for Federal control.  That kind of obviousness didn't stop the three mental midgets from voting for Arizona, or Scalia from shooting off his ignorant mouth at the release of the decision to attack President Obama on an issue entirely unrelated to the decision at hand (amnesty to illegal immigrants brought here as minors).

These switches by the previously solidly conservative Roberts reminded me of The Switch in Time that Saved Nine in 1937.  Then there was the threat of expansion of the court to 15 justices because FDR was frustrated by the court's continual overturning of New Deal legislation and state legislation regulating business.  There was no such threat this time, though.  Coincidentally, the justice who switched from voting with the conservative block of four then was also named Roberts.  Justice Owen Roberts was the one that time.

I'm thinking that the switch this time may have something to do with Justice Scalia.  He's so unreasonable, so partisan and so divorced from any clear legal thinking, Roberts may be trying to separate himself from Scalia to show that it's his court rather than Know Nothing darling Scalia's court.  Roberts is the Chief Justice, after all.  Scalia can keep his posse of Alito (a cypher so far as any thoughts of his own) and Thomas (the most unqualified justice to serve in half a century), who support whatever he says without question.  Like the wing nuts they represent, they're only driving themselves further away from the majority and relegating themselves to the ash can of history.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Religion's Hostility

Recently the new Archbishop for Baltimore had an op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun.  It touched on problems with immigration laws in places like Alabama and Arizona criminalizing the compassionate works of the church if their compassion is directed toward illegal immigrants,  but the main thrust of the piece was that churches, and the Catholic Church in particular, are being persecuted by the US Government.  In fact, he went so far as to draw comparison to Christians being killed in Iraq and Nigeria.

Now Archbishop Lori had just enough sense to say that the persecution faced in the US is much less severe than places like that, but he still thinks he's being persecuted in the US.  How?  Why, the requirement that church based organizations that provide services to people who aren't of that particular faith have to provide health care coverage to their employees that provides for services the church might oppose.  In his case, that would be abortion and contraception.

Of course, this would be a moot issue if the GOP had allowed passage of a health care law that provided for a single payer system through the federal government, but instead we have a plan based in Republican principles of promoting private industry, which the GOP opposes mostly because a Democrat lead the charge on its passage.  Now they characterize their own philosophy of just a few years ago as socialism.  But I digress.

Churches complaining about unfair treatment by the various governments of the United States is usually very amusing to me.  Churches are mostly heirarchical organizations that dictate from the top what the followers below are to believe and do in comportment with those beliefes.  Southern Baptists (or whatever new name they're using) and Quakers are among the exceptions, but the Southern Baptists still end up in the same place with a sort of tyranny of the majority that has lead to the expurging of moderate and liberal congregations that haven't fallen into lock step with the conservative majority.

And that's because monotheistic religious organizations are inherently anti-representative.  They enjoy the greatest freedoms in the world here in the US, where no religion is allowed to have supremacy over any other in government, but religions themselves are monarchical or dictatorial.  It's why churches, and the Catholic Church especially so, were supporters of the divine right of kings.  It fit with their philosophy that all came down from the supreme diety, via his representative, the Pope.  The Protestant Reformation brought plenty of conflict between countries where the Protestants became the majority against countries where Catholicism was the majority, but they weren't any better in supporting representative government.

It was the almost pagan Founding Fathers who brought representative government back to the world.  Most of them would be eviscerated as something less than Christian by today's right wing who ignorantly hoist them as some sort of saints who crafted an infallible document, bizarrely making the US Constitution into another book of the Bible.  The irony runs thick.