Truth and Democracy

Inviting those who live in the right-wing alternate universe to join the rest of us out here in reality.

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Location: Hackensack, New Jersey, United States

Thursday, April 28, 2011

PGA Playing Ability Test; April 25, 2011 Concordia GC

Monday morning was dreary and overcast as I arrived at Concordia GC, about 6:40am. There were already a few assistant pros (PGA hopefuls) on the putting green. When Victor, Concordia's manager, arrived around 7am, he informed the players that the driving range would be closed due to significant rains the day before. Chris Hunt, known affectionately as "The Bus" (for obvious reasons if you saw him), the New Jersey PGA Section's tournament director, followed shortly thereafter. Hunt arranged for players who chose to do so to use nearby Rossmoor CC's driving range and delayed the PAT's start until 8:30am (originally 8). But since this would require a fast dash over to Rossmoor to hit just a few balls, and then a fast dash back, I chose to stay at Concordia. Rushing around does not instill the proper frame of mind.

Facing a delayed start, Hunt decided to pair the players up in groups of only two for the morning round (instead of the usual three), thus speeding up pace of play. I was paired with a player named Colin Thomas from Westchester County, NY, and we were sent to start at hole #2 in a "shotgun start", where all players begin on different holes at the same time, also to expediate play. The 2nd hole at Concordia is a 480 yard par 5, short by our standards. The hole bends slightly to the left about 220 yards from the green, where two large fairway bunkers guard the left side of the fairway. Carry your drive over these, about 255-260 yards, and you are left with about 200 into the green.

Thomas drove first and hit a mediocre tee shot down the right hand side, leaving himself a longer second shot. At the moment you place your tee in the ground, and the ball upon it, you can experience a bit of panic. "This is it, this is what you've been building toward for months". "Don't screw it up", Thoughts tend to race, muscles tense. I had not played in a PGA event in over a decade as well. To counter this effect, I closed my eyes and made a few short, compact practice swings, then set up to the ball and let 'er rip. I ripped a long, high, perfect drive over the fairway bunkers, I did not even need to watch it fall from the sky. I knew where it would be. Having just over 200 yards to the middle of the green (the hole was "cut" in the difficult back left portion), in the cool morning air and with a somewhat downhill lie, I chose to hit a 3-iron hybrid club, which I mishit slightly, leaving myself about 15 yards short of the lefthand side of the green. To my deep chagrin, I found my ball in a ditch connected to a drainage area, but with no relief by the rules. The ball was 6 inches below my feet, nestled in deep grass. I did my best but could not advance the ball to the putting surface, eventually making a bogey 6 on the hole. A disappointment after a perfect tee shot.

Ultimately, I played fair in the first round. I found a lot of unlucky lies and the holes were often placed in the most difficult parts of the putting greens. A "hard luck" 78 was the result. Meaning I would need 77 ot better in the afternoon in order to pass. Thomas shot 86, including several penalty strokes for shots hit "out of bounds". For the second round, we were set up in the traditional threesomes. A player named Jeff (forget last name) joined Thomas and myself starting again at number 2. The sun had come out. It was warm and humid, and the wind, nonexistent in the morning, had begun to blow a little bit.

My second opening tee shot was less perfect but not harmful. I drove the ball up the right side of the fairway, leaving myself about 210 yards to the middle of the 2nd green. This time, a better hybrid shot, from an equally downhill lie, ended up just a few yards off the left side of the green, near the hole location, and in a decent lie in the rough. After choosing to "pitch" the ball onto the green with my sand wedge, I proceeded to hit the exact shot I had envisioned, and watched as the ball landed on the green and rolled directly into the hole, clinking against the flagstick as it dropped in, for an "eagle" 3. My verbal response, "You gotta be kidding me". For the first time all day, I now had to consider the very real potential of passing. Expectations began to enter my mind and body, to the tune of tension.

Having the "honor" (lowest score on the previous hole) on the next tee, I sent a perfect 5-iron over a lake into the middle of the fairway of the par 4, 3rd hole. I then waited endlessly as my two playing partners deposited a total of three balls into that same lake, "Jeff" having to play two balls through the hole due to a rules question, which gave me what seemed like forever to think about my chances, rather than focus on the here and now. I did make a routine par at the third, but began to struggle after that. My swing began to get shaky. My ball started finding lots of bad places and I began leaving myself difficult putts for pars. Since putting had been a struggle recently, even during casual rounds, the results were predictable. I hung on as best as I could for as long as I could but ultimately surrendered the strokes necessary to pass, finishing just a couple above the target score. As a matter of fact, I stood in the 1st fairway (our final hole) with about 135 yards in, knowing that if I holed out from that point, I would pass right on the number. A slim chance in the extreme, but not impossible (I have done it before). However, my ensuing pitching wedge came up a little short, despite the shot being downwind.

I am not too disappointed in the aftermath. I gave the best effort I had under some very difficult personal circumstances. Just three working assistant golf professionals, most in their 20s, played a better 36 holes than I. In my group, I was the only player with any chance whatsoever of passing. This after 11 years removed from serious play, and almost 7 years without playing at all, having started again just last September. If my play under pressure improves as rapidly as it did when I was in my early 30s, the potential will be nearly limitless. I thank Chris Hunt, for running the event on his day off. Ray Bridy, PGA Professional at Concordia, for hosting, the members of Concordia, for allowing us to intrude on their lovely course for a day, and, most of all, Dana, Mom and Dad, and everyone else who has supported me through my crazy, crazy, life. Here's hoping this is just the beginning of a new, old career.

Paul Roth, Jr.
April 28, 2011

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Keep Christ in Christmas"

So, you wanna keep Christ in Christmas, huh? Funny thing is…Christ was never more than a small part of Christmas from the beginning.

“What did he say??!!”

“That’s crazy talk, right?”

Nope. It’s historical fact.

When the Roman Emperor, Constantine, declared Christianity the official “religion” of what was left of the empire in the 4th Century, his mother, Helena, wanted an official commemoration of Christ’s birth. No such prior observation existed. December 25th was chosen in order to take advantage of an already popular celebration, the birth date of the Roman God, Mithras. For the people of Rome, Christmas quickly became a time of drunken revelry and public rowdiness. Only the priests observed it in quiet reverence.

Since the date also coincided with the Pagan northern European Solstice Festival of Yule, a 12 day feast, it was an easy sell to the north of Rome as well. But the secular observation of the holiday as a time of “good cheer” (public drunkenness) only intensified there. Worse yet for the “Keep Christ...” crowd, the Europeans melded much of the Yule celebration into their Christmas. To this day, a majority of those things we associate with Christmas actually originated with Yule; the hearth flame, candles (lights later), the tree, wreath, holly, mistletoe..etc. Even jolly old St. Nick originated in northern Europe. While he did travel the countryside bringing gifts to good children, he was followed immediately by a demon who would torture the bad children (try taking your kids to the mall to see him!). It took a 19th Century NYC poet to bring us the Santa Claus we have today.

Many British still celebrate Christmas by dressing in costume or masks. The tradition of Caroling began as an effort to get free booze from your neighbors. Ask a knowledgeable friend what the phrase “Here we come a-wassailing” really means. The Industrial Revolution in America ultimately resulted in the commercializing of Christmas, as our nation’s great Capitalists sought to take advantage of perhaps the only Christmas custom which actually had its roots in the Bible, gift giving. Christmas has now become more of a year-ending business frenzy than anything else, its own sort of “Christmas bonus”, for retailers all over the world, without which our currently stagnant economies might bust. “Keep Christ in Christmas” you say? It would be more appropriate to ask if you can “find Christ” anywhere in Christmas, despite its name.

I find your little signs (and sometimes not so little) to be a personal annoyance because you seem to presume that Christ was ever a major part of the holiday, he was not. TV talking heads and fundamentalist preachers droll on and on about “liberal” secularism destroying Christmas, another one of those signs goes up in the neighborhood, and another American buys into a false narrative of human, religious, and even American history. The fact is that the secular elements of this holiday were ALWAYS more popular, right from the start.

Still want to “keep Christ in Christmas”? Fine, here’s how:

Start by throwing that pretty tree into the trash, along with all your lights, wreaths, holly, garland..etc. No Santas, reindeer, elves, snowmen, no cards, nothing. You can keep the Nativity scene; provided you acknowledge that even that is based on misreads and faulty translations of the New Testament, as well as a mish-moshing of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. House looks pretty hum-drum, huh? Now pile the whole family into the car (oh, I’m sorry, male family only) and head on down to the first church you can find that doesn’t have any of those “secular” decorations. Remain there in quiet meditation and prayer from about 6pm Christmas Eve until Midnight Christmas Day. Congratulations, you’re keeping Christ in Christmas now, just as Constantine’s Holy Men did over sixteen centuries ago. (Try selling the kids on this idea too!)

As for me, I’ll still be laughing at your foolishness. Why? Because the entire premise of the three major monotheistic religions is an absolute delusion. Imagine I have a 9 year old daughter. She’s a very imaginative child. She has literally had hundreds upon hundreds of imaginary friends ever since she was three or four, never a real one. It seems as if there’s a new one every week or so. All of them have been products of her imaginative little mind. But the new one she’s talking to right now over there on the living room floor, I’m 100% convinced that this one is really real, although I can’t see her and there’s no evidence she’s any more real than the others. This is more than faith, it is sheer lunacy. Yet the version of human history one needs cling to in order to be a Christian, Jew, or Muslim today is every bit as fantastic, maybe more.

Mankind spent thousands of years, from region to region, all over the earth, creating “God” concepts or Spirits of Nature based on their unique cultures and surroundings. Men fabricated the very notion of a God. But, in the greatest cosmic coincidence of all time, there really was a real God, just one, who chose to reveal himself only to a small and oppressed tribe in the desert, forsaking all the rest of humanity, many of whom that tribe didn’t even know existed. THEY were his “chosen people”. Kind of like my daughter is to her invisible new friend. Utter fantasy.

PS - Nearly every crucial detail in the New Testament narrative of Jesus' birth, life, and death, is plagiarized from the story of the Egyptian God, Horus, which predates the time period of the New Testament by more than one thousand years.
         And don't "Keep Christ in Christmas" this Saturday. Then you're only commemorating an ancient Roman God or the Winter Solstice, remember? Better to pick a day from the calender at random, you've got a 365 to 1 chance of getting it right.


Paul Roth, Jr.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Park Place becomes Hysteria Lane

The following is my response, from the Facebook page "Zoo Politics", to a conservative woman who was scolding a young man for his opinion on the Park 51 Cultural Center, because he was "too young to understand 9/11" and should leave the conversation to "the grownups":

Paul Roth -

How about a person who was plenty old enough, saw the towers fall, lives 15 miles from ground zero, knew people who died that day, had his livelihood affected in the aftermath, and understands that the attacks were conceived, plotted, and executed by people who twisted their religious zealotry into justification for killing innocent people, rather than by all who practice the religion they falsely claimed?? Can I play?

Here's a quote for you:

If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul

Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the

Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.

If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul,

and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a

Christian, but I have always been one Mr. Pearl.

And I am here to inform you, with the full authority of the Quranic texts and the

practice of the Prophet Muhammad, that to say La ilaha illallah Muhammadun

rasulullah is no different. It expresses the same theological and ethical principles

and values.

We are here especially to seek your forgiveness and of your family for what has

been done in the name of Islam.

Who said these words? The Imam who is being vilified in the right wing press for having "ties to terrorists", at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl, killed in 2003. The Bush administration sent this man on two tours of the Middle East to promote peace between Islam and America. He is currently on a third such trip, which the right wing is lying about as well. He has been helping the US government in it's war on terrorism from the beginning.

The Center (Park 51, Cordoba, whatever) was intended to promote healing. A place where all are welcome. It was supposed to be a symbol to those who twist Islam into war against the west that Islam rejects their fanaticism. It would be a very American, western, cultural center which would include a prayer area within it's two uppermost floors. It's location would be a neighborhood which has been largely Muslim for many years, the greatest irony of the 9/11 attacks.

Instead the SIOA (Stop Islamization of America), Christian and Jewish right-wing bloggers, and all those with a paranoid fear that Muslims are trying to take over this country (mainly those who want conservative Christianity to dominate us), have convinced you that the center is meant as a "symbol of victory" over America and a great beachhead for the coming Muslim invasion. It's been a glorious PR victory for religious "warriors" all across America. But at what cost?

I've had people, who are otherwise rational, spout nonsense to me about this issue from the very start. Those who say, "Why there?", are the most misguided of all. Their intentions are good but their argument begins with the most flawed of thinking. That Al Qaeda truly represented all Islam when it attacked us that day. You cannot arrive at opposition to this center, or spout the usual slogans ("no ground zero mosque", "not on hallowed ground") without first falsely conflating 19 terrorists, and those who trained them and planned, with all Muslims everywhere. The real question is, "Why not there?"

We tend to remember, with bitter rage, images of people celebrating in the streets of occupied Palestine on that day, and with good reason. But, in our bitterness, we forget all of the Muslim voices which reacted with shock, sympathy, and outrage at what had been done, allegedly in their name. I well remember hearing a statement of condemnation of the attacks and sympathy toward Americans, that day, which came from a most unexpected Middle Eastern nation. It was from Saddam Hussien's Iraq!

"We are here especially to seek your forgiveness....for what has
been done in the name of Islam". Do you people need it said any more clearly than this? When will you cease carrying a grudge against all for the actions of those who believe God wants them to kill? Shall I blame all who call themselves Christians, for the actions of those who shoot doctors, bomb gay bars and abortion clinics, savagely beat gay young people, or pipe-bomb a Mosque?? By your example, maybe I should.

Paul: Let's call this my definitive public statement about this issue. Fascism and Xenophobia are the prefered meeting place of the American right wing. There is no one who cannot earn the moniker "Enemy of America", if it serves their best interests. But when will the majority of Americans learn better than to be sucked into their hateful cauldron?

***** The photo atop this column comes from a right wing website. The caption reads "Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11". No further commentary is necessary. *****

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

William A. Ferguson - poster on Randi Rhodes' Facebook Page

Consider this a guest column. I found this post on the Facebook page of Randi Rhodes and received permission from the author to reprint it in it's entirety. If you're not familiar with Randi, she may be the closest thing the left has to a Rush Limbaugh equivalent, without the daily bullshitting of course. Her show can be listened to live at each day. I met her at a weekly comedy show in NYC in 2004, while she was working with Air America Radio and I was a Press Secretary for a Congressional candidate seeking to ouster the fanatically right wing Rep. Scott Garrett, (R-NJ 5). She promptly booked my employer, Anne Wolfe (D), on her show live from the Democratic National Convention in Boston. We had something in common; she adored comedian Lewis Black and he was my former client from my Stand Up Comedy biz days. I highly recommend finding time to listen to her for the sanity of all my progressive friends (even though she was canned by AAR for getting a little too downright vicious with another of my former employers, Hillary Clinton). Please read this post. I will return to it tomorrow with some personal commentary. It's by a man named William Ferguson:

William A. Ferguson  - Right now your fate has been and always will be decided by a ten percent segment of the population that controls the wealth of the other ninety.

This segment of the population has nothing in common with you. They never have to worry about being laid off, having to choose food over medicine, wonder how they'll make next month's mortgage payment, worry about ever getting seriously ill and never have to be at the mercy of a Congress that can arbitrarily decide to cut off their unemployment insurance because they can't find a job.

When they fall on hard times they can go to the government and get a welfare check in a form of a bailout to the tune of seven hundred billion dollars.

The punchline to this god-awful joke? We created these monsters. Our labor, our sweat and our toil made them what they are today.

You'd think they would be greatful for our efforts that allow them to live their lives of comfort and ease. Sadly, this isn't the case - instead, we the American workers get the shaft every time.

They tell us that times are hard and that we all must sacrifice when they don't cut anything back for themselves.

They force us to take pay cuts and reduced benefits while they reap insane, over-the-top profits.

When they make bad decisions we suffer the consequences in the form of layoffs and outsourcing.

They get paid salaries that are three to five hundred times more than what you make in your lifetime and when they get fired, they get serverance packages in amounts that would feed several third-world nations.

In some cases, it's more lucrative for them to fail than to succeed.

Given the choice between staying in this country to make several hundred million dollars and moving the job overseas to make several hundred million and one dollars, they will opt to move that job overseas just to make that extra dollar.

They gamble with our pensions and savings and when they lose there are few if any consequences for them.

And most insulting of all: they use the wealth we created for them to buy off government legislators that gladly pass laws in their favor.

What really angers me is that most of us believe their lies and have us reciting them verbatim while we wonder how we're going to come up with enough money to get braces for our kids.

It doesn't occur to them or Congress that we wouldn't need to ask Uncle Sam for help if we had decent paying jobs.

Saturday at 7:28pm ·

(Paul) I'd like to add a few comments to what Mr. Ferguson said:

"Socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor" - This is how Gore Vidal once described America's version of capitalism. It could be considered a shorter version of the above comments. There's an anger here which is more universal than many recognize. A feeling that there are powerful forces, which one has no control over, which are shaping our lives against our will. It exists among the Tea Party crowd as well, but there it is misdirected, by right wing propaganda, against the power"less" rather than the power"ful". Once upon a time, during the Great Depression, rioters threw stones as cars carrying wealthy Senators passed by in Washington, DC. Those Senators got the message and passed the New Deal programs, as much to promote their own safety as to help millions of starving Americans. Human history reveals again and again that when too much wealth and power reside in too few households, especially when a majority struggle simply to survive, first anger and ultimately violence are the result.

Yet today's angry Washington protestors are screaming at, and even spitting on, the very legislators who seek to repair the imbalance of power. They are egged on daily by right wing voices who have convinced them that the real enemy is a lower middle-class woman receiving food stamps for her family or an unemployed computer tech who has practically given up trying to find decent work to meet his skills, instead of the CEOs who are gifted with tens of millions in bonuses after moving their jobs to India. If you still cling to the idea that the "mainstream" media is horridly "liberal" or that right wing media outlets offer nothing more than harmless "balance", then how on earth can you account for the current mood of the country? If Republicans should actually regain control of both houses of congress this November, in the wake of disaster after disaster as a result of their previous agenda, will you still be able to say with a straight face that it was not as a result of right wing media's ability to rewrite American history, recast current events, and author a convenient but false narrative of the world around us, with the power to mold the opinions of a majority of Americans? I think not.

Mr. Ferguson's last line is a call to arms, so to speak. If only America could hear it above the cacophony of right wing disinformation. It should be emailed by every single American, to their Senators and Representatives. The right wing would dismiss it as a call for "socialism". It isn't. Government doesn't have to create all of those "decent paying jobs" itself. But there was a time when government did foster the economic environment and the fiscal motivations which kept a majority of our people in an enjoyable and upwardly mobile way of life. Those days are long over, replaced by a supply-side, greed-centric philosophy which has failed to make America stronger.

Thank you Mr. Ferguson, for saying what needed to be said. I just wish I could make all of America hear it for real.

Paul Roth, Jr.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear Mr. President, (Grow a Pair, Quick!)

Dear Mr. President,

Even after working for your primary opponent, I voted for you Mr. President. I made tons of phone calls to other New Jersey voters, asking them to join me in electing you. It’s coming up on two years since those days and, quite frankly, I’m getting really frustrated with the White House I chose. This isn’t the inane ranting of some right wing lunatic; I personify your base of support. I am sick to death of watching you not stand up and fight for your principles.

You can begin later this morning by firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal. No career military officer since Douglas Macarthur has been in more dire need of unemployment. He has kicked the US Constitution to the curb and violated rule number one for an officer dealing with his superiors. It’s time for him to go. He’s had ample opportunity to privately discuss any concerns he has with you. Instead he chose to publicize them, inject himself into partisan politics in which he has no business, and possibly provide “aid and comfort” to our enemies. Trust me, if any General had been guilty of this kind of conduct while still in George W. Bush’s chain of command, FOX News and the rest of the right wing machine would be calling them a “traitor” and crying out for court-martial proceedings. Firing McChrystal is the least you can do. Do it. It would, for the first time in too long, indicate to your supporters (as well as your critics) that you are actually in charge in Washington.

I’ve watched you try to compromise too much for too long now. Enough. You sought bipartisanship on healthcare and you were accused of wanting to “kill grandma”. Then you let Senators from your own party kill much of the principled good the reform could have done. You compromised endlessly in the name of getting a bill done and it resulted in passage of a questionable law. Don’t confuse our happiness at making things a little better with a triumph. Attempting compromise with an uncompromising opposition is an unsettling pattern into which you have fallen. Republican minorities in the House and Senate are historically small. Yet, pending legislation on climate change and energy independence is dead because of their opposition. Immigration reform is dead at their hands as well, even as they blame your government for “inaction”. And financial reform still lacks the real and obviously necessary teeth.

Time and time again you have sought cooperation from a Republican Party which has been largely in partisan campaign mode since the beginning of last summer. Consider this a friendly intervention. There is an appropriate time for compromise and there are times when you have to fight for your principled beliefs to the bitter end. The GOP has shown you the path which they have chosen. What path will you choose? It’s time for clear, uncompromising and principled leadership. Will you “call the bastards out” and force them to defend their untenable ideology or will you continue to fight with at least one hand tied securely behind your back? Will you join the Republicans in partisan campaign mode from this very morning through Election Day in November? Don’t kid yourself that doing so would be “beneath” a president. They are currently slaughtering you, when it comes to defining your presidency. The only way you can wrest control of the debate away from them is to make clear to America the things you refuse to compromise on AND THEN STICK TO WHAT YOU ADVOCATE, no matter what they throw at you!

You are frittering away a golden opportunity even as I write this letter. You began it when you offered the right wing an olive branch by announcing an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling. You never begin a negotiation by compromising on principle. Now it is exponentially worse. Now, in the face of a disaster of epic proportions, one which cries out to be built into a whole new American approach to energy and a complete house cleaning of incestuous government regulators, one which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that lack of regulations and enforcement literally KILL, your approach has been lukewarm at best and downright conciliatory at worst. I watched your Oval Office Address last week. I wasn’t impressed. Your opponents are laughing at you and your supporters are no longer sure that you’re the same guy they gave their all to elect. Even the devout centrist Bill Clinton, when the chips were down and principle was on the line, stared down the GOP Congress and forced their hands. The Republicans blinked.

Take a lesson from the history books. Look at Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and even the above example of an otherwise bipartisan Bill Clinton. You own the “Bully Pulpit”. Show them where the “Buck Stops” and stare them down with Clinton’s “Eye of the Tiger”. The odds are stacked in your favor, if only you’d exhibit the backbone.

Let me leave you with a personal anecdote. Yesterday I had a knockdown, drag out debate on a political internet page with a self-described “Southern, Christian, Conservative”. I am a Northern, Atheist, Liberal. To say that he and I differ in our views would be putting it mildly. We argued back and forth for some time. I offered facts to back up my opinions and clear, concise and logical arguments. In the end we came to understand each other’s experience and viewpoints a little better but neither surrendered his core beliefs. In his last comment, he told me that he had gained a newfound understanding of my world view and respected the consistent passion I have in my beliefs. I had never compromised an ounce. The moral is that the GOP will never like you. They will probably never agree with you on policy. But if you stand firm and consistent with them, if you show them no mercy when engaged in debate, if you communicate and act with nothing short of the utmost passion in your principles, they will come to grudgingly respect you. More importantly, you will win back all of the 53% of the American people who chose you in the first place. Please heed this message.


Paul Roth, Jr.
Hackensack, N.J.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Facebook Files: Arizona, Leave it or Love it?

I offer a recent exchange with an actual self-described Arizona conservative, from a friend's Facebook page; his post first (identity protected, obviously), followed by my response:

Actual AZ. Conservative - I live in Arizona and i am a conservative. I like the present law. If an indiviudual is born here then they should have all of the rights of any U.S. Citizen. If their parents are not, then they get to go home. MOST Mexicans i work with want a strong border. I do not have enough space here to fully ask all of the questions. BUT just a few. 1. If your child had a special need and the district could not afford enough aids to help WHILE spending money on ESL (English as a second Language) would you be upset. 2. If your daughter was murdered and the guy ran back to Mexico to safety would you be pissed. 3. If you only had 5K of un-insured driver coverage and your car was totalled by an illegal and you got stuck with the bill would you be pissed. This is happening in my community. Fremder is correct, immigrants provide a ton of services and are very valuable. I just need to know Who they are, why they are here, they pay taxes, FOLLOW ALL LAWS, Including MV insurance and immigration. Pretty Simple. No amnisty, Go home and come back when you do it properly. I have said this many times before, the Scumbag Republicans want the cheap labor and the Scumbag Democrats want the votes. Pretty Simple. I have given far more to help immigrants through my church than most, I pay more taxes than average, I have Spanish speaking instructors to help save lives of Mexican workers. trust me, I get it.

It troubles me deeply when our idiot president comments on the AZ law that neither he, nor his Atty General nor his HM Security sec. have read. That is completely un-acceptable.

I understand everyones heartfelt emotion to this issue. I just need all of the facts to be presented. Yes SOME Illegals pay taxes and YES that can be alot of money. However, They also send back truckloads of CASH to MEXICO. When the country of Mexico brutalizes anyone caught coming across their southern border, NEVER NEVER NEVER let them comment on a legally approved state law such as AZ's. AND then stand and apploud his biassed comments like the embarrasing display from the Dems. That was shameful. That piece of shit Calderon needs to get his own economy in shape then less illegals will want to come here.

I will vote against any measure to deny legal citizenship to ANYONE BORN in the USA. I do and will support a sealed border and deportation of anyone caught here illegally. Lets stick to the constitution and be the example for all who want to come here legally. I truly feel for all of the people. BUT unless we keep sending them back more will think that if they can just get here, then they can stay. THAT is what makes it dangerous this time of year in the desert.

Please visit us in AZ. The beers and sodas are on me.

p.s. ROCKS are DEADLY weapons. the 15 yr old fucker that got shot by border patrol while tossing rocks deserved it.

My Response:

Paul Roth - Where do I begin? First, because the recent post was done in a pretty civilized manner, I will endeavor to maintain that tone. I should say, as a disclaimer, that I don't condone people entering the country illegally any more than the next guy, even if he's an Arizona State Senator. But I can understand the reasons why they do it and I don't hate them for it.

SB 1070 was a terrible law, as originally passed and signed. It was then ammended, barely a week later, after the entire nation went apoplectic over it and many Arizona law enforcement officials publicly refused to enforce it (which would have given private citizens the right to file suit against them). Defenders of the original law now want you to forget about this.

The proposal **** linked us to here simply violates the US Constitution, as someone quickly pointed out. That is as clear as day. I want to pose some questions of my own as well and I also want to make a couple of statements. Here goes...

The three questions above are "trap" questions. They're designed to evoke an emotional response which can only lead you to agree with Mr. ********'s point. Anyone can do this. If we were debating healthcare reform, for example, I could ask you how you would feel if you had a seven year old daughter dying of cancer and could in no way afford a potentially life-saving surgery. How could you say, "I wouldn't care if it meant a government takeover of our healthcare system"? Ever since CNN's Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis how he would feel if Kitty were raped and murdered, this has been politics 101. And yes, I'm guilty of doing it elsewhere.

1. ESL is not exclusively for the benefit of illegal aliens, it's for very legal ones as well. Is this a veiled argument for mandated English-Only Everywhere? Should legal immigrants be forced to speak english BEFORE entering the US? If all Arizonans are as sympathetic to others as you seem, then why the need for banning cultural studies, soccer in public parks, or devising arbitrary standards for terminating teachers with "strong accents"? Why are they writing racial slurs on newspaper websites or yelling them at a bunch of kids helping to paint a mural? What's going on down there? It seems as if an awful lot of your neighbors don't share your liberal sympathy for our fellow human beings. Hate makes for bad legislation and even worse politics.

2. Of course you'd be pissed, you'd be murderously angry! If immigration laws were based solely on these kinds of tragedies, no Scandinavian would ever again be allowed to vacation in the Islands. We could use it as justification for banning interracial dating in the US too, if we wanted (See OJ Simpson). What you describe is a tragedy. But how many cases have fit this exact description?

3. Is this even an immigration issue? Again, I have little doubt that it happens. It also happens every day involving uninsured drivers who are 100% American citizens. And, be careful, you are coming dangerously close to confirming the foolishness of states which are trying to sue the federal government to block the new healthcare law, based on the constitution. Is Jan Brewer's AG engaged in this partisan waste of your tax dollars as well?

I agree with your assessment of Bush's "Amnesty" proposal, vis-a-vis "cheap labor" (See, Republican Scumbags). However, I have done GOTV with the Democrats, including areas with large hispanic populations, and have yet to see evidence of a single illegal alien casting a vote. I believe this to be another tin-foil hat right wing, "I can't accept that Obama actually won", conspiracy theory. It places right up there with ACORN causing the global economic meltdown and those FEMA Detention Camps.

And our "idiot" president doesn't read any entire law. No more than any other politician in America. They all have staff who both write and read the exact language for them, then brief them on the details. The idiot president, his bonehead Attorney General and the dimwitted Director of Homeland Security, just disagree with you on the wisdom of the law and the agenda behind it. You should really stop pretending that the law Brewer originally (and happily) signed is the current law of Arizona (as ammended).

We're all aware that part of the story of SB1070 and also the current racial tensions in AZ., is a lack of action and leadership by the federal government. But saddling Obama, or the Democrats in general, for that problem is focusing on less than half the story. The GOP had full control for six years not too long ago and the best they could muster was Bush's "Amnesty" and the far right wing's White Elephant "Wall" idea. Obama's first year got bogged down on more urgent matters and current Repubs have made a "no bipartisanship" pledge through November. Nothing's going to happen soon on immigration, like it or not.

As for the Mexican president (and Mexico in general), that is some seriously selective outrage you have toward them. Calderon's comments, their laws, their economy? Really? If American conservatives hate Mexico so much, then why are they trying so hard to remake America into Mexico's identical twin? Let's compare our southern neighbors with the right wing's vision for us here at home:

Democracy accessible only to the wealthy and most powerful individuals and entities?
Mexico - check
Right Wing - check

Rampant corruption caused by small, poorly funded and ineffectual government institutions?
Mexico - check
Right Wing - check

Nonexistent labor and safety standards?
Mexico - check
Right Wing - check

Nonexistent environmental regulations?
Mexico - check
Right Wing - check

Little protection for accused criminals?
Mex. - check
RW - check

Brutal immigration enforcement?
Mex. - check
RW - check

No safety net for the poor?
Mex. - check
RW - check

Two standards of education/ healthcare/ justice?
Mex. - check
RW - check

One religion recognized and promoted above others?
Mex. - check
RW - check

Well, I could really go on like this for hours but I can't believe how long this post is already, even for me! A closing query; Why is it that our northern border with Canada is so darn quiet? Why aren't millions of desperate Canucks risking life and limb to come here? Aren't they dying to escape all that "socialism". Why are the residents of Mexico, your model for America's future, flooding here by the millions?

Oh, and they're sending those "truckloads of CASH" back mostly to their starving families.

Paul Roth, Jr.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Church of Rand

You’re a tourist in Manhattan, New York City. Hungry after a grueling but fun morning filled with intimidating subway rides, awesome sights and suffering a stiff neck from all that looking up at those big buildings, you decide that lunch at the world famous Carnegie Deli would hit just the right spot. After locating a cabbie who actually knows his way around the city, you are deposited in front of your gastronomical destination. However, as you approach the front door you are met with a sight which stops you dead in your tracks; in bold letters on the Deli’s front door, a sign reads “CARNEGIE DELI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO NON-JEWS”.** You close your eyes and shake your head, believing you are hallucinating, yet the sign remains. You’re not dreaming, you’ve just entered America, as Rand Paul would have it.

Ultra-conservative Kentucky Republican Senatorial candidate Dr. Rand Paul, son of ultra-conservative Texas Congressman and 2008 Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, created a firestorm this week when he criticized aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which deal with discrimination by private businesses. Paul claims that he “abhors” racism but worries about any infringement upon constitutional “freedom of speech” as it relates to racial discrimination. Liberals might be skeptical of a southern, uber-conservative’s commitment to abolishing racism but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Rand Paul has expressed these concerns about curbing the right of business owners to refuse anyone their services several times in recent years. Although he admits that the federal courts have settled the constitutional issue, it apparently continues to nag at his conscience. If we take him at his word, Dr. Paul’s problem is not so much blatant racism as a belief in preferential treatment under the constitution. He clearly values the constitutional rights of a racist private business owner far more than the similar protections afforded to the customers whom the hypothetical owner would reject.

Paul has also criticized the 1968 Voting Rights Act, which prevented southern states from systematically denying blacks the right to vote (some states and conservative activist groups still engage in finding loopholes to this law). He has unequivocally stated his desire to repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by George W Bush’s father, as well. What is the source of Paul’s preference for the rights of business owners over those of their customers? Is he merely seeking justification for racism? I would suggest that he is reflecting the views of devout worshippers at the Church of Rand. No, I am not saying that Paul literally worships himself, although that theme is not entirely inaccurate in describing this particular faith.

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in Russia in 1905. Raised in St. Petersburg, her life was negatively impacted by the Communist Revolution. First, her father’s business was confiscated by the government. Later, she was nearly ejected from college, close to graduation, because she was a non-communist. In 1926, Rand left Russia on a visa to visit American relatives, she would never return. She went on to author several fictional stories espousing her personal philosophy, which she called Objectivism. Her entire life’s work, in fact, can be seen as an overdramatic reaction to the unhappiness of her youth in Communist Russia.

Objectivism could well be defined as self determination on steroids. It is an ideology in which intellectual reason is the only God, the individual is his or her own savior and “rational self-interest” is the ultimate moral code. This philosophy naturally aligned itself with conservative belief in unregulated capitalism. Though this alliance was originally secondary to Ms. Rand, she eventually embraced the political implications of her philosophy and founded the sarcastically named “Collective”, a small group of devoted Objectivists and Laissez-Faire Capitalists, including future Fed Chairman *Alan Greenspan. The Collective became the rock upon which the Church of Rand has been built.

The repetitive theme in all of Ayn Rand’s work is the tyranny of the mundane masses over a unique protagonist. The problem with her body of work becoming an inspiration for real world political activism lies in its common delivery method, heavy handed hyperbole. The collectivist worlds which Ayn Rand paints for us do not and probably never could actually exist. They are the paranoid overreactions of a soul bent on vengeance against unseen forces that caused personal tragedy in its youth. One only need witness the tortured performances of legendary actors Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal in the film version of Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, as they grasp for realism amongst unbelievable character motivations and overdramatic dialogue, to understand the foolishness of basing real world ideas upon her work.

I was introduced to Rand at an early age, through the Canadian rock band Rush. Rush’s drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart, became a fan of Rand’s work in the 1970’s, acknowledging her in the credits for the band’s 1976 album 2112, which was based on Rand’s novella “Anthem”. In ‘78, Peart penned an allegorical statement of Rand’s ideas entitled The Trees. The trees in Rush’s forest were in crisis. The Maples resented how the Oaks stood much taller and therefore got all of the sunlight. Ultimately, the Maples “formed a union and demanded equal rights” and “the trees were all kept equal, by hatchet, axe and saw”. It is a cautionary tale no doubt but one which is no more realistic than Rand’s collectivist worlds.

In his 2005 book about Rush’s 30th Anniversary Tour, “Roadshow; Landscape with Drums”, Peart effectively rebukes criticism of both he and Rush as a “right wing band”, dismissing his earlier work as only one in a myriad of lyrical themes he has explored. I, like Neil Peart, have an appreciation of Ayn Rand’s ideas but stop well short of worshipping at the Church of Rand. Not far away from here on blogspot, an author whose pen name is John Galt (the central character of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged”), on a blog titled “Robbing America”, engages in weekly rants against Barack Obama, Democrats in general and uses Ayn Rand’s words to warn us against liberal “Statism”. This blogger’s entire worldview expresses how the work of an early 20th century author has gradually morphed into first a political ideology and ultimately, a church capable of remarkable zealotry.

I call it the “Church of Rand” for two main reasons; first, because those who follow this ideology share much in common with their theological equals and, second, because it would surely piss off the extremely atheist Rand, the church’s chief prophet. The commonality between Rand’s church and religious ones is its emphasis on beliefs over facts and results. The personal practice of Objectivism, in which every individual would essentially be an island unto themselves, would doom otherwise good people to a world of chaotic discord. The political practice of Rand’s ideas, via the Reagan Revolution and right wing domination of the last thirty years, have resulted in massive debt, industrial erosion, falling incomes, rising unemployment, environmental disasters, criminal greed in the financial sector, reduced quality of life and a growing pessimism that America’s brightest days are behind her. In modern America, it is the mighty Oaks who have instead taken "hatchet, axe and saw" to the humble Maples.

Despite this record of miserable failure, conservatives maintain that more of their Ayn Rand-inspired ideology is the only solution for what ails us. If this does not mirror the religious tendency to place belief above facts, then I don’t know what does. When Rush Limbaugh entitled his ode to Rand’s political ideas “The Way Things Oughta Be”, he was proving my point for me. If “it’s just how things should be” is the most compelling case you can make for your idea, in light of overwhelming evidence that it simply doesn’t work, you have entered the realm of pseudo-religious faith and exited the very world of reason which was Ayn Rand’s preferred residence. You have built the Church of Rand and are groveling at its altar.

This is why it is so important for liberals to be familiar with Ayn Rand’s work. It was the motivation behind Ronald Reagan’s union busting. It’s why Republicans always seek corporate freedom above the public’s health and best interests. More currently, it’s why they fought tooth and nail against healthcare reform. It’s why they continue to bow and scrape at the feet of Wall Street’s more unscrupulous high-risk gamblers and the “too big to fail” bankers and insurance giants, even after the considerable damage such entities have wrought upon us all. It’s why a Senator from Alaska unashamedly tries to limit British Petroleum’s liability to less than 10% of a mess of BP’s own making, forcing taxpayers to foot the other 90-plus percent. It’s also why the new Republican Governor of New Jersey, facing a massive budget shortfall, has the audacity to propose cutting state taxes on people making over $400,000 per year while simultaneously eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit, thus raising taxes on residents who can barely feed their families. Without such understanding, one struggles to comprehend how Rand Paul could suggest that permitting institutional racism is preferable to government interference in such matters.

By all accounts, Ayn Rand’s personal life was an unhappy one, consisting of illicit affairs, chain smoking, drug abuse and mental illness characterized by dramatic mood swings. One former student of her ideology described Rand’s later life intellectual “Puritanism” in this way, “There was more than just a right kind of politics and a right kind of moral code. There was also a right kind of music, a right kind of art, a right kind of interior design, a right kind of dancing. There were wrong books which we should not buy, and right ones which we should ... And on everything, absolutely everything, one was constantly being judged, just as one was expected to be judging everything around him ... It was the perfect breeding ground for insecurity, fear, and paranoia.". Sounds an awful lot like the old Soviet Union which Rand had fled many years before. If objectivism could not even provide the basis of a happy existence for its creator, what hope is there for an entire country which seeks to follow her mantra to the letter?

The most glaring flaw in Rand’s philosophy can be illustrated by using one of her most cherished fictional creations. Howard Roark was a brilliant and uncompromising young architect and the imaginary protagonist of Rand’s “The Fountainhead”. But no matter how brilliant and edgy his designs might be, no matter how special an individual he was, in the real world he would still need scores of others to make his dreams a reality. Without a company and its stockholders willing to buy his remarkable design, engineers to insure that his designs would remain upright, without contractors to plan and execute the building project and, yes, without laborers (possibly union) to make the whole thing a physical reality, Roark would ultimately become nothing more than a madman, with delusions of grandeur, drawing pretty pictures on a notepad. Most of these other folks may lack the unique vision Roark possesses but without their valuable contributions, our architect doesn’t amount to very much in the real world. Rand conveniently overlooks this reality in her heavy handed and contrived little stories. To her, such folk are just leeches, hangers on, the unwashed masses or worse, the mud under foot, as she charmingly described them in “We The Living”.

There is one more way in which the Rand right wing resembles a religion more than rational thinkers; it is in how they see those of us who disagree with their ideas on life and the marketplace. “We The Liberals”, are the great Satan of the Church of Rand. We are the “Statists”, the “Collectivists” or in the view of FOX News’s Glenn Beck, the “Marxist Democrats” who are “a cancer which must be removed from America”. We do not simply possess a different point of view; we are the real embodiment of Ayn Rand’s paranoid visions of a dystopian future, where all of society would be melted down to its lowest common denominator. We are to be destroyed in a life and death struggle for the sanctity of the individual mind. All of this is because we see intrinsic value in all human beings, not just the privileged or “special”. After all, the “masses” are just large amounts of…individuals. Who am I to say which individuals are more valuable than others?

I’d like to end this piece on a more positive note. All criticism aside, Ayn Rand’s story is surely a unique American success story. In what other country could an immigrant intellectualist, seen by her contemporary writers as a limited, one-trick pony author and by her intellectual peers as a philosophical hack, go down in history as the philosophical godmother of one of the most powerful political movements in human history? As another Russian-American philosopher, one whose ideas were of equal merit, once observed, “What a Country”?!

* In testifying before Congress in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown, even Mr. Greenspan, one of Rand’s most devoted fans, was forced to admit that the kind of unfettered capitalism which he had worshipped for decades had failed in practical reality.

** My apologies to the proprietors of New York’s Carnegie Deli. Whom I am certain would never institute the kind of policy I use as an example in my opening paragraph.

## - A disclaimer - while I connect author Ayn Rand and politician Rand Paul by their common names, it should be noted that Paul has publicly denied that Ayn is his namesake. His full name is Randall, although one might speculate at his choice of abbreviations considering that both he and his father are ardent fans of Ayn Rand’s work.

Paul Roth, Jr.