Not letting the fundamentalists win

Tuesday 5 July 2011

fundamentalism (Webster’s dictionary) n. 2: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

In case you hadn’t noticed, the “war on terror” is based on the idea that fundamentalism is bad.  There’s this group of people who believe a certain thing about religion or the U.S. or the west, which drives them to choose killing other people as the best way to go.  There is no room for growth or negotiation because they know what they believe and they’re right — everyone else be damned.  If maybe we could just talk to them and have some room for figuring out how we can all get along, things would be OK, but because of an unwavering belief, there’s no room to do anything but “slug it out.”

I believe this is why fundamentalism is bad.  Fundamentalists live in a world where their is no compromise, no ability to see that they might only hold part of the truth, no willingness to bend a little bit to allow for other opinions and ideas.

Isn’t the idea that more ideas are better than one, that solving problems in groups leads to greater success than individually, the reason why teamwork and cooperation are stressed in school and prioritized in job hiring?  And in order to work together, you must bring your ideas to the table but also be willing to listen to the others who are there with you and figure out the BEST option: it may not be one particular idea (in fact, it rarely is) but it is usually a combination of the input of many people that will create the best outcome.

Unfortunately, fundamentalism is at work  in DC these days (and has been for a while now), and it goes by the name “Republican.” I’m not usually into party bashing, as I think the top two we have here in the U.S. are both pretty ruined, but as the U.S. gets closer and closer to defaulting on it’s massive debt obligations (can you count to $14 trillion?), Republicans speak together with one new mantra: no new taxes.  This is not George Bush (the first) circa 1988, which perhaps would be a better state to be in, as he later went on — wait for it — to raise taxes as a way to reduce the national budget deficit. (Deficit creates debt for those playing at home.)

No, unfortunately we have a group of fundamentalist Republicans who will not waver in their belief that any increase of taxes is horrible.  They have dug in their heals and will not budge, and citizens must take notice.  We must all ask “who is being protected by this aversion to taxes?”  People with money and corporations would be the ones paying taxes, certainly not the 9+% unemployed that corporations won’t use their excess cash to employ or the millions more making minimum wage or barely enough to scrape by.  And even if you look an “middle income” (if there still exists such a descriptor) earners, event hey wouldn’t be affected as all/most suggestions of new taxes would be on very high income earners.  Were you aware that since 1960, the tax level for the top 1% of earners has dropped monumentally from about 45% to 30%?  Why not let the rich get and stay richer (I refer you to yesterday’s post).

It’s high time for everyone — everyone – to recognize the ludicrousness of a political party that will not negotiate or compromise.  David Brooks had some good words to say in Tuesday’s NYTimes that I think bear sharing:

“… the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise …

“The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.

“If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.”

A group that cannot and will not compromise is not fit to govern in a democracy, plain and simple.  We’ll see if the Republicans ever get the picture.  If not, I sure hope the voters do.


tax day!!!

Thursday 15 April 2010

As hopefully my readers in the U.S. are aware, 15 April is tax day!  Because it falls on a weekday this year, you won’t get any extra days.  If you still haven’t filed your taxes, you should do that!  Even if you’re late, it’s OK.

I, personally, got a few refunds this year (based on my locations of employment), including a nice bonus from the federal government!  I still paid taxes, mind you, in terms of medicare and social security (not to mention sales taxes all the time!), but I was part, as an article I read notes, Nearly half of US household escape income tax (if  you can call me a “household”).  I’d make some comments about this fact, but I think it’s already been done well at another blog called the “Hillbilly Report,” for all you rural progressives out there, apparently c:

Instead, I want to talk about what all those income taxes that are collected are used for!  Perhaps one might say that only those 53% who pay income taxes should decide how they are used, and that might be an interesting way to go, but until that day, I’ll have my say.

There is a nifty little chart/flyer put out by FCNL that shows how income tax revenues are distributed.  As we continue to think about health care, we should not be surprised to see that 17% (or $532 billion) of such taxes go to health care costs (and that doesn’t include medicare!) — as the flyer notes, this “Includes Medicaid, public health, Indian Health,
National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and related programs.”  We also know that tax money goes toward things like transportation, education, and other “basic needs” we have in the lives we live.

However, what gets me is that 1/3, or 33%, or $1 trillion (also written as $1,039.5 billion) goes toward Pentagon spending for current and past wars!  That far exceeds the minimal 1%, or $36 billion, that goes toward “Diplomacy, Development, and War Prevention.”  And actually, the “war” percentage is lower than usual because we spent so much money on the bailout and government economic relief — that number was 43% a year ago and is expected to rise to 38% again in two years, even with our current President Obama.

What we see here is continued belief that what makes the U.S.  safe and secure, not to mention a country not to be trifled with, is our military strength.  They say “fences make good neighbors,” but I think having friends around you is even a better strategy in the end.  Instead of spending (wasting) money on wars and war machinery, we need to transform our country into one working for peace and reconciliation with countries around the world, recognizing that our differences need not mean hostility and war.  Especially in these tough economic times, we need to reduce war and military related spending and step into the world of diplomacy and peacemaking.  If not now, when?

urban biking: a critique

Monday 31 August 2009

So in my previous blog, I shared just how much I love urban biking.  Here, in part two of my writing sample, I share some of the concerns I and others have concerning bikes being on the road.  It’s good now, but how much better it could be!

Urban biking does, however, have its share of detractors who complain about those who choose a bicycle to fit their transportation needs.  It is not surprising, though, that a society both figuratively and literally constructed around the automobile would take issue with those who don’t follow the norm.  Major cities construct roads and direct traffic patterns with respect to the masses of cars driven during rush hour, while those who would take to the streets on a bicycle are lucky to find a bike lane or trail that comes anywhere close to approximating their commuting route home.  However, the urban biker must also take responsibility when at fault for certain complaints.  Because everyone deserves to be heard when it comes to urban biking, I want to address some of the critiques and concerns that surround the issue.

Perhaps the most widely voiced complaint about bikes sharing the road with cars and other vehicles is that bikers regularly fail to observe applicable traffic laws.  I must confess that I have in my life biked through a red light or breezed through a stop sign without stopping, but if bikers are to earn the respect of automobile drivers, they need to begin to obey the rules of the road or face the same consequences to which vehicular drivers are subjected.  By law, bicycles are given equal privileges to motor vehicle traffic on most roadways, and with equal privilege comes equal responsibility.  This means respecting all traffic on the road by obeying the laws required.  Automobile drivers must also recognize that bikes have equal privileges and respect those with whom they are sharing the roadway.  However, it’s understandable that drivers look down on those who continually disobey the law, and for this reason, bikers must be implored to obey the rules of the road and call upon other bikers to do the same.

Another critique of bikers and biking is that bicycles clog up the road for cars and cause traffic to become even more congested that it already is.  However, it must be noted that bikes obeying traffic laws have just as much right to use urban roadways as cars do, and much urban traffic on roads where bikes are present, especially during peak hours, travels at such speeds as to not be affected a bicycle’s presence.  Cars and bikes certainly have different sizes and abilities, but that doesn’t mean bikes need to leave the roadways.  Instead, the use of bikes should be encouraged through the creation of bike and shared lanes that make it safer and easier for all traffic.  Bicycles actually reduce congestion and pollution by removing automobiles from the road, creating a better environment for all involved.

A third critique not widely held but still of concern is that cyclists pay nothing toward the improvement or upkeep of roads in the way automobile drivers do through licenses, car registrations, or taxes on gasoline.  While some might desire the registration of bicycles or cyclists for a small fee, since bicycles have such a small impact on roadways, minimal taxes on the general population should be all that is needed to procure the necessary funds for any roadway upkeep due to bicycle traffic.  This, too, would work as an incentive to get drivers out of their cars and onto a bike, knowing that they are already paying for services of which they are otherwise not taking advantage.

Finally, I have a personal critique, which I know is shared by others, regarding the use, or extreme lack of use, of bike helmets.  I know there is the “cool factor” we all have to worry about, but there is no good reason why one should bike, especially in an urban setting, without a helmet.  Even when all on the road are abiding by the law and attempting to drive safely, accidents can and do happen, and just as someone in a car is required to buckle up, a biker needs to wear a helmet.  If bikers are to be respected on the road, not only will they have to abide by traffic laws, but they must also show others that they take safety seriously by wearing a helmet.

The sharing of the road by automobile drivers and cyclists is a sensitive issue for both constituencies, and all parties need to recognize the concerns of others involved.  Compromises may have to be made by all, but there is no reason why cyclists shouldn’t be able to ride safely side by side with those who drive by choice or necessity.  Indeed, I have no doubt that through organizing and promotion, the streets of and cities around the world can become safer and more efficient for all to enjoy.