Wikipedia Wednesday: Man in Black

January 13, 2010 5 comments

I don’t have time to add a picture to this one but in honor of the live concert in Folsom County Prison on this date 1968, today’s WikiWednesday topic is Johnny Cash.

As always, rules to Wikipedia Wednesday can be found in the sidebar link.

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The Fluidity of Outrage

January 12, 2010 27 comments

Harry Reid in all his glory

I must assume that most readers are at least vaguely aware of the curfuffle regarding recently released quotes by Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV).  I don’t suppose my commentary on this topic is surprising but I am compelled to share my opinion as there exists a wide range of reactions from the conservative ranks.

By way of summary, Reid is quoted in a soon to be released book as having said of President Obama, he’s “light-skinned” with “no negro dialect, unless he wants one,” during the 2008 campaign.  Many conservatives and even more Republicans (the difference there lies in which identifier a person places more emphasis) are upset by these “racist” remarks and that there seems to be no significant outrage, due Reid’s party affiliation.  I am partially in agreement with this… but only partially.

Reid says this and is given a pass based on the “passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I [President Obama] know what’s in his heart.”

During the same campaign Vice President Joe Biden (who seems to have been wisely banned from speaking by the White House) said of Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man,” and then was picked as his target’s running mate.  Around this time he also claimed that he would be likely to get significant votes in southern state because, quite obviously, Delaware (his home state) was a slave state and there must be some affinity there.

Former Republican majority leader Trent Lott on the other hand, stated at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that had he beaten Harry Truman in 1948, the country would have been better off (interestingly, Thurmond was a segregationist Democrat at the time, a view he later repudiated after his switch to the GOP).  Lott was castigated by none other than Sen. Reid as not being worthy of Senate leadership and was eventually drummed out by his own party for the audacity of saying something nice – off the cuff – about an old man at his birthday party.

I intensely dislike this double standard and I don’t for one second buy the excuse that since a person is a Democrat* and thus more likely to receive African-American support, they can’t possibly harbor any discriminatory tendencies.  Nor do I believe that it’s wise to read into selective comments and assume racism.

Consider this…

Thurmond’s 1948 position was primarily one of state’s rights and Lott is entitled to feel that this would have been preferable to a federal government run amok.  He could make this statement with absolutely no endorsement of segregation specifically.

Reid was making an observation that, while perhaps not based in reality (did President Obama’s lighter skin tone make him more electable as a black man?  I don’t think so), isn’t really that objectionable.  Additionally, both Obama and Hilary Clinton put on and removed “negro dialects” during that campaign – depending their audience.

Biden is harder to explain but I assume that he intended to compliment Obama the candidate and by “clean” (the most disturbing of his adjectives) he meant something more like “clean-cut.”  I’ll just put down to misstatement his contention that Obama was the FIRST African-American to exhibit these characteristics.

There’s where I part ways with some Republicans.  I don’t think Reid is a racist.  I don’t think that Lott is a racist.  I don’t even think that Biden – with an impressive collection of idiotic statements – is a racist.  A moron, but not a racist.

The more we misuse that term, the less meaning it has (racist, not moron).  Further, this degeneration of the language is particularly disturbing when it’s only allowed to be applied one direction across the political isle.

*Politically, all of this may be academic since Reid looks likely to lose his reelection bid in November; the second Democratic Senate leader to crash out in a decade.

Fact of the Day: Colorado

January 3, 2010 6 comments

Yesterday my dad and I were discussing where the boundaries of Weld County lay which brought out my parents’ encyclopedias.  In true generational fashion, the evening ended with my dad and I racing to discover interesting facts – he about Grover Cleveland (encyclopedia) and I about Colorado history (iPhone).

I’m pretty sure I won.  Did you know that Colorado once had 4 Governors in one year and the unique record of 3 in one day?  Some of the procedural details are a touch dry but here’s the essence of it:

Governor Peabody

Governor James H. Peabody was elected in 1902 with a promise of restoring law and order in the midst of a particularly bitter and violent labor dispute centered around Cripple Creek (which I just notice for the first time is a somewhat insensitive name).  It seems that the miners’ union had successfully gained a virtual monopoly on miners by shouldering out all non-labor workers and then striking.  Obviously the mine owners didn’t like this much and brought in outside labor while petitioning the state to use the militia against the tough union tactics (aimed at preventing non-union miners from stepping in). Peabody was particularly sympathetic to these requests and took an extremely pro-business stance.

By 1904 the public was losing patience with Peabody and he faced a tough re-election campaign against Alva Adams.  Here’s where it gets weird….

Adams appeared to win but later claims of election fraud caused the legislature to act to overturn the election.  As it turned out both candidates probably violated election law in a massive way.  A compromise was reached by which on March 17, 1905 (a day that should live in infamy) Alva Adams was inaugurated and then immediately removed.  Peabody was reinstated – having only been out of the position for a matter of hours – and then promptly resigned, leaving Lieutenant Governor Jesse McDonald to head the state.  Count ’em, that’s 3 in one day.  To make it even more interesting, it was Adam’s 3rd time as the governor.

Also, I came across a fantastic – if not quite flattering – quote by the head of the Colorado militia, a General Sherman Bell.  In response to criticism for holding suspected criminal members of the unions without charges, he stated, “Habeas Corpus, hell.  We’ll give ’em post mortems.”

Interesting stuff and it puts a fine point on the fact that it’s an absolute tragedy the education system doesn’t put a greater emphasis on teaching state history to our kids.

I learned some interesting pieces related to the Colorado labor wars of the early 20th century when I was in college but I didn’t realize until yesterday how brutal that conflict was – from BOTH sides of the issue.  I can now understand a little better why the national guard was brought in.

Wikipedia Wednesday: New Year edition

December 30, 2009 5 comments

In this blissful week when many of the regular WW contributors are lazily taking off work, I am reciprocating with an equally lazy topic.  Regular rules apply (see sidebar link if you’re a newbie) in getting as crazy as possible from the entry for:

New Year

Mea Culpa

December 24, 2009 2 comments

I offer my profound apologies for doubting you, my readers, in the arena of WikiWednesday.  The entries on yesterday’s post were epic.  We went from The Church of the Nativity to STDs, Beowulf and Charles Manson by way of such ludicrous links as Dharma and Bromance.

I stand in awe at your creativity – and twistedness in some cases.  Well done (if this was Skype I would insert the clapping hands emoticon right here).

If I were forced to award a winner from this outstanding field of competitors, it would have to go to Meghan for overall quality.  Also, honorable mention to Paul for best final entry (Manson) and Aaron for funniest individual link in the process (bromance).

Wikipedia Wednesday: Christmas edition

December 23, 2009 7 comments

Having been buoyed by your positive responses to my little questionnaire, I am bringing back WikiWednesday after a brief hiatus.  It seems that even if you don’t have time to comment, you do enjoy the game.  If nothing else, click the image to visit the Wiki page and learn a few tidbits.

So here we go…

How crazy can you get in 6 linked Wikipedia steps from (rules linked in the right sidebar):

The Church of the Nativity

As a random tangent, I believe that sometimes-reader Meghan was almost killed in the Church of the Nativity last year, but it may have been in some other religious venue in Jerusalem.  Megs, feel free to correct me on that one.

Independent dependence

December 21, 2009 10 comments

Just cause we need it doesn't make it worth the cost

If you’ve read this blog for little while (or ever spoken to me… ever) you know that I’m a pretty conservative guy.  I’ve softened my presentation in recent years but have maintained the same basic platform.  The past 6 months have put me in a position analyze my belief system through the lens of first-hand experience.  Let me explain…

Obviously this doesn’t cover every political issue but generally speaking I believe in less government intrusion – both in regulation and benefits.  The off-shoot of this is that I prefer lower taxes.  This gives people the best chance of contributing to a market economy and ideally is also a means of stifling the aforementioned intrusions.  I’m also a pragmatist and realize that there is very little that can be done to eliminate (or even decrease) some of the monstrously expensive programs that have been created in the past century.  Like I say, none of that should be much of a surprise to anyone, but how is this stance effected by our current situation?

I haven’t received an actual pay-check since the middle of September, Sarah is 7 months pregnant and up until very recently, we didn’t have any insurance.  I am unemployed but not counted in the 10% figure since I haven’t sought any of the benefits to which I’m entitled.  We were paying for pre-natal care out of our swiftly-emptying pocket but didn’t apply for Medicaid, though we were (and probably still are eligible).  Why would I stubbornly hold to my principles when it seems to my detriment to do so?  Because it isn’t to my detriment; because that’s the point of having principles.

Now’s the part where I leave the moral high ground and come clean about how a former missionary family can survive months on end with barely any income.  Other than some funds that we managed to save on my meager Ukraine salary in anticipation of exactly this situation, we have been blessed far beyond expectation by our friends and family.  A few have given money outright (and for this we are eternally grateful) but most have simply done little things where they felt able.  Picking up a lunch tab, inviting us to dinner, donating a few groceries, offering odd jobs, giving free advice, sharing some unneeded clothing – it was all the small things that added up to being able to cover the bills.

Honestly, one side of me wants to list all the people and what they did; to give them the praise that they deserve, but I know it wasn’t for accolades that they gave.  This is why we all should strive to be part of a caring community.  It’s humanity at its very best.  To risk sounding a little left, it’s informal, VOLUNTARY communism (*gasp* No he didn’t!).  From each according to his means; to each according to his need.

Here’s the point of my principles and why I still stand by them in opposition (apparently) to my own self-interests.  Where would my gratitude go were I to have received the same benefit, but it was taken – by police enforcement, upon threat of prison – from my friends and neighbors.  This is, in essence, what taxpayer-funded government benefits are.  It’s a crude, cheap (though not financially so) immitation of actual benevolent charity.  I concede that there must be a safety net for those who are forced to accept assistance – and I’m not especially troubled to pay taxes for this purpose – but it should not be the norm.

So back to my then-rhetorical question… What would come of my gratitude were the government to be the source of the aid?  Instead of drawing me closer to people who have given from their hearts and creating a indelible bond within a community, I would be drawn ever closer to a faceless, heartless, amoral institution of comparatively limitless resources.  Instead of growing in relationship with fellow adults, I would be regressing to childishness – perhaps eventually becoming content to suckle at the proverbial tit of institutionalized forced redistribution.  No thanks.

So why am I so reluctant to accept something in my best interests to which I’m legally entitled?  Because being legal and perhaps financially wise doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s *good* for me.

I’m being vulnerable here.  We couldn’t have done it ourselves and without the gifts, we wouldn’t be in the position in which we currently find ourselves.  This isn’t meant as a arrogant screed in favor of rugged individualism.  It’s a defense of the beauty of a community meeting needs and helping others.  I detest the idea of this beauty being superseded by that of the nanny state.