Marriage Equality: About Damn Time

The Court may go this way or that, but finally, the country seems to be on the right path. 

As many of you may have noticed this week, Facebook was flooded by a wave of digitized Rothkoesque profile pictures in support of marriage equality as two pivotal cases make their way through the Supreme Court, challenging the governments’ ban (California – Prop 8) and non-recognition (federal – DOMA) of same sex marriages.

The hater inside of me initially thought about the silliness of reducing a civil rights issue to a social media profile image. What difference would it make? I doubt I was alone in dismissing the value of the trend. In spite of my own cynicism, I changed my profile and was hit with a feeling I had not felt since November 2008 – another instance in which I scoffed at (yet publicly supported) a national campaign that was unforeseeable just a few years earlier.

SC Supreme Court Facebook

Nearly five years later, Continue reading “Marriage Equality: About Damn Time”

Of Course Satan Was Black

Arguing about whether Jesus was white or not is so passé. These days, Satan’s race is all the rage. 

white Jesus

I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Jesus being portrayed as a white man. It’s still wrong, but it no longer bothers me that a man born in Palestine is almost always depicted as a northern European. I draw the line, however, when the History Channel goes out of its way to juxtapose a white Jesus with a dark Satan in its new miniseries “The Bible“. Oh yeah, and dark Satan looks a lot like President Obama.

black Satan

The folks over at the History Channel issued the following statement:

“HISTORY channel has the highest respect for President Obama. The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It’s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection”

False connection. Right. Even if he didn’t resemble President Obama, I find the use of a dark-skinned man as Satan in an otherwise almost entirely white cast shameful. The resemblance with Obama is just the dingleberry on top.

 

Minimum Wage and its Discontents

What you get for an hour
What you get for an hour

President Obama recently said in his State of the Union that Congress should do whatever it takes to increase the federal minimum wage to $9/hour. This caught a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle off guard because the stated priority of both parties is currently job creation. And the conventional economic wisdom states that if you increase the wage that employers have to pay their workers, they will simply hire fewer workers. Increasing the minimum wage leads to an increase in unemployment.

The counterargument to this is that increasing the minimum wage would give low-income workers more purchasing power, serving as an indirect economic stimulus without government spending. The increases in unemployment take effect only if the minimum wage is drastically increased – modest increases have little if any effect on employment.

As Paul Krugman pointed out last Sunday in the NY Times, setting minimum wage at “$20 an hour would create a lot of problems. But that’s not what’s on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.”

Employment is not the only factor at play. Continue reading “Minimum Wage and its Discontents”

Nuances of the State of the Union

Every political circus has its rules. Here are some of ours.

Obama SOTU

I must be a fool because every time I watch the State of the Union, I am surprised by the amount of clapping there is. Watching the speech in another country makes it feel all the more ridiculous and choreographed. I imagine that Brits feel similarly about the shouts and sneers that erupt in the House of Commons. Continue reading “Nuances of the State of the Union”

Time Magazine’s non-Presidential Persons of the Year

Time Cover Obama POYTime magazine recently named President Obama as their Person of the Year. This isn’t much of a surprise – any time you win the US presidential election, you have a pretty good chance of winning. In fact, five out of the last six President-elects have been bestowed with the honor.

What I find more interesting is all the instances in which the President-elect was not named the Person of the Year. Who were these people that were so outstanding that they managed to outshine the most obvious candidate? Here’s a list of election year winners going back to the award’s inception.

Year

Person of the Year

What’s so special?

 1928  Walter Chrysler  People really hated Herbert Hoover
 1932  Franklin D. Roosevelt  President-elect
 1936  Wallis Simpson  Caused crisis in English monarchy
 1940  Winston Churchill  FDR had already won twice before
 1944  Dwight D. Eisenhower  FDR had already won thrice before
 1948  Harry S. Truman  President-elect
 1952  Elizabeth II  Fresh young queen for a tired country
 1956  Hungarian freedom fighter  David v. Goliath
 1960  American Scientists  DNA, space and computing
 1964  Lyndon B. Johnson  President-elect
 1968  Apollo 8 astronauts  First human orbit of moon
 1972  Nixon and Kissinger  President-elect
 1976  Jimmy Carter  President-elect
 1980  Ronald Reagan  President-elect
 1984  Peter Ueberroth  Managed 1st privately financed Olympics
 1988  The Endangered Earth  officially the “planet of the year”
 1992  Bill Clinton  President-elect
 1996  David Ho  HIV-AIDS scientific research
 2000  George W. Bush  President-elect
 2004  George W. Bush  President-elect
 2008  Barack Obama  President-elect
 2012  Barack Obama  President-elect

It used to be that you didn’t have to win the US Presidential election to stand a chance. These days, it’s near impossible without it. Still, your best options would be to (1) make a breakthrough in the natural/physical sciences, (2) be a business hotshot, (3) go to war with a great power, or (4) shake up the English royal family. If none of that works, try being a planet.

The Importance of Texas

Yes Virginia, there are liberals in Texas, and not just in Austin. 

Quick question (and don’t look it up on Wiki) – what percentage of Texas voted for Barack Obama in 2008? Given that Texas is often seen as the “role model for red states”, it may surprise many to know that four years ago, Obama won nearly 44% of the vote. While Obama’s numbers declined by about 2% in 2012, this level of support still shows a state that is much more complicated than the caricature that it is often presented as. Convincing a small percentage of the state to turn blue can change the country for decades.

Let’s not kid ourselves – Texas is most certainly a conservative state. But even in the most ideologically extreme states, at least a third of the electorate goes against the prevailing wind. When we say that a state is really red, that just means that the state isn’t a tossup in the election. A shift of a few percentage points can change all of that. In Texas, the margin of difference is small enough to flip the state, or at least color it purple.

Texas is the second largest state in the country and has 38 electoral votes – almost 20% of Romney’s electoral vote haul. If a big blue state like New York flipped, it would be a big deal too. But electorally speaking, New York is much bluer than Texas is red (Romney won only 36% of vote there) and more importantly, the demographic trends do not bode well for future Republican gains.

Texas on the other hand is at the heart of one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in our nation’s history. I hate breaking things down in terms of white and non-white, but for what it’s worth, much of the country votes that way. As Texas becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, the greater the likelihood of a flip.

I doubt any monumental shifts will occur by 2016, but beyond that, it’s certainly a possibility. It would be foolish for Democrats to ignore Texas, and it would even more foolish for Republicans to take it for granted. With Texas, Dems are more or less guaranteed Presidential victory; without it, Republicans are guaranteed defeat. There are plenty of skeptics, but for the first time in more than a generation, Texas is being viewed as a real battleground for national elections.

Read more:

The Bitter Bluff of Secession

If the secession petitioners actually got their way, they’d be a lot worse off and the rest of us would be a lot better off.

For a brief moment after the recent election, I had hope. Prominent conservatives had publicly admitted that Obamacare is the law of the land (given the electoral results, its repeal could no longer be a priority) and that raising the top marginal income tax rate would not be the end of the world. It seemed as though we might actual have a period of bipartisanship. Some folks just didn’t get the memo.

The White House’s website has a section called We the People which allows people to start online petitions. Any petition that garners more than 25,000 signatures will get an official response from the President. There are currently petitions in all 50 states to secede from the Union due to the “unfortunate” results of the election. Other than Florida, which voted for Obama, every other state that has accumulated the requisit 25,000 signatures (Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina) voted for Romney.

This is yet another case of red state blue state foolishness. The Romney states want to leave? If they did, the rest of the country would be better off (financially at least). With the exception of Texas, every single one of those other states get more from the federal government than they give. These states are the real moochers.

I’ve written before that blue states have been subsidizing red states for years, but thanks to these petitions, this discrepancy has been getting a lot more attention recently. If you didn’t like the links in the previous post, here’s some more in the secession context:

I still have hope that we will have at least a few months of uncomfortable and reluctant bipartisanship. But this whole secession business is nonsense. If a Texan you know wants to secede, tell them to relax. If anyone you know from the confederacy of takers wants to secede, let them know how lucky they are that nobody takes them seriously.

For anyone interested, there’s another petition on the White House’s website, entitled “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America“. As of this writing, it has 22,601 signatures and has just over 3 weeks to get the remaining 2,399.