Matt's Blog
...religion, politics, and other things you should never discuss at bars (but probably do anyways).
Sunday, February 29, 2004

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Bill Maher's "New Rules:"

Feb. 7, 2004 | New rule: Southerners have to at least consider voting for candidates from the North.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has a powerful argument in his bid to be the Democratic nominee when he says, "What I give people is a candidate who can win everywhere in America."

Translation: "We Southerners ain't gonna vote for no Yankee! You suckers up North will take our Clintons and Carters, but we just ain't buyin' Kerrys and Deans."

And that's a shame. Not just for Democrats but for democracy itself. And I feel bad for the millions of intelligent people who live in a region still dominated by so much prejudice that anyone who wants to be president better have a twang in his voice and pronounce all four E's in the word "shit."

Sorry, but responding only to people who look and sound like you is small-minded, so if Southerners don't want to have an inferiority complex, I say, "Stop doing things that make reasonable people think you're inferior!"

Like, getting rid of slavery was a good start. But don't quit there: Stop being the place that's always challenging the theory of evolution. What's next, gravity? Is that just a plot by the Jews up North to get people to drop spare change?

Southerners need to let go of the Civil War, beginning with those reenactments. First of all, you're reenacting something you lost. It's one thing to gloat about victory -- when you do it about losing, your front porch is a few couches short of being decorated.

The time has come to move on. The time has come to consider voting for a Yankee. Howard Dean's Vermont is no longer where carpetbaggers come from. Carpet munchers -- yes.

There's no good reason that America, at this late date, still needs to be a house divided. At bottom, we all want the same things: dignity, security -- and someone to slap the shit out of Janet Jackson.

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About the writer
Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I haven't read the book. But this came in e-mail form and I thought I'd share...

Carville's Ten Rules for Progressives to Live By

1. Stop Apologizing for Everything. You are a member of the party that beat the Depression, won two world wars, cut elderly poverty by two-thirds, and is responsible for the greatest periods of economic growth since World War II. Democrats wake up and start looking for someone to apologize to. Stop it. You've got nothing to apologize for.

2. Quit Conceding That the Other Side Has a Point. I taught school for a little while, and guess what? There is such a thing as a stupid question. The same goes for opinions. Not everyone has a valid point. The next time a right-wing nut tells you that the Bush plan gives the poor a lot of incentive to get rich, don't say, "Well, you've got a point." They don't have a point. What they're saying is stupid. Sometimes a mind is like a mouth: you just got to shut it.

3. Be Big: Think only of, and talk only about, big things. When I advise candidates, I tell them it is okay to have an opinion on everything, it is just not okay to render said opinion on everything. I may favor a transgender amendment. But if I were running for president, I would not make that part of my core platform of ideas.

4. Be Positive. I grew up in the town of Carville, Louisiana—so named because my family provided the town with its most indispensable federal employee, its postmaster. When I was growing up, my daddy convinced me that I was living in the best place in the world. He always made sure I remembered that we had the best climate, the best people, the best family, the best soil, the best peaches—the best everything. “Of any place that you could live in the world,” he’d tell me, “you’re living right here in Carville, Louisiana.” Man, I thought it was the garden spot of the universe. Did I know that there were places where the heat index wasn’t a hundred gazillion on an August day? No. Did I know that there was a Broadway or a Michigan Avenue or a Rodeo Drive? No. And I didn’t give a damn. Progressives are genetically inclined to talk about how bad things are. We’d rather be the skunk than enjoy the garden party. We need to be able to see the good—and make a case for making it better. In short, we need more of my daddy’s Carville attitude in Washington and less of our liberal activist carping one.

5. Use Their Weapons Against Them. Republicans love to talk about right and wrong. They do so with an absolutely religious fervor—and that makes sense because more than a small number of them use their religion as a justification for their policies. If they’re going to do that, it’s fair for us to ask questions like “Is cutting funds for the schools that educate the kids of the people fighting for us in Iraq a bad, stupid right-wing policy, or is it an affront to God?” “Is rolling back clean water protections so your rich contributors can blight the environment bad policy, or is it a sin for which you can burn in hell?”

6. Attack Their Lack of True Patriotism. There are actually some people who will buy a used car from the dealer with the biggest flag. He’s usually the guy with the biggest mouth, too. The same goes for politics. We shouldn’t look for the biggest flag or listen to the biggest mouth—we should look for the real patriots, the ones who are willing to tell the truth and make America stronger. It is completely antithetical to the American ideal of generational promise to burden future generations with a massive amount of debt. Every American child has heard the story from his or her parents or grandparents about how they worked hard to make things better for the next generation. They struggled to be the first in their family to finish high school, so that the next generation could be the first to finish college, so that the next could be the first to finish graduate school. And whether our family came here on the Mayflower in 1620 or from Manila in 2003, we all share the belief that America is not just a good place today, but is going to be a better place tomorrow. Republicans have destroyed that. Being an American, honoring the flag, is much more than some trumped-up staged landing on an aircraft carrier. Just having a lot of red, white, and blue bunting at your convention isn’t patriotic. Their lack of understanding of what this country is really about demonstrates a total lack of patriotism. We need to call them out on it.

7. Never Just Oppose, Always Propose. I can tell you with absolute certainty that back in 680 B.C., the first sentence of the first speech in the first campaign of the first Athenian running for City-State Council was this: This election presents a choice. Every election is a choice, and as progressives, our goal must be to ensure that the choice isn’t between bad and nothing; the choice needs to be between bad and good. We progressives need to define our vision of America, not just react to the right wing’s vision of America. We don’t like the America they want to build, we need to show Americans something better.

8. Don’t Let the Little Crap Get in the Way of the Big Shit. You have to pardon my language, but I just don’t know a better way of saying it. As progressives we need to do more than fight symbolic battles, we need to be driving toward a larger goal. For example, the big shit is energy independence. The little crap is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I once asked a friend of mine who was very active in the environmental movement, “Would you trade off a fuel standard that freed us from Middle Eastern oil for drilling in ANWR?” He said no. To me, that’s an example of the little crap getting in the way of the big shit. Would you trade off late-term abortions for universal health care? To me, the great gain of universal health care is far more important than the largely symbolic battle over a little-used procedure. Don’t get me wrong; symbolic fights are periodically worth fighting. I have nothing against them, and I’m not saying we should abandon our principles. What I’m saying is that we should be willing to make trade-offs to advance them.

9. Sometimes You’ve Got to Be Willing to Fight. Period. Why is it that Democrats were calling on Al Gore to concede the election when no Republicans called on George Bush to concede? Why didn’t we want to fight as badly as they did? Why didn’t we call on Bush to concede? Because our nature is not to be tough. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. American will never trust a party to defend American that fails to defend itself.

10. Stop Brown-nosing the Elites. I believe that in the 180 days prior to any election, candidates should be required to stay away from cocktail parties, dinner parties, or any social event that occurs in the following areas:

-Spring Valley
-Old Town Alexandria (where Mary and I live)
-Chevy Chase …
… and other bastions of stupidity inside the Washington Beltway.

[On the following page, Carville provides a helpful map of the Beltway.]

One of the reasons Tom DeLay is so successful is that he doesn’t give a damn what any people in any of these neighborhoods think. Democrats tend to become completely paralyzed by it. I can’t tell you the number of times in a Democratic meeting where someone says that such-and-such was said at so-and-so’s dinner party, and that the deputy assistant to the associate editorial page editor at The Washington Post rolled her eyes. Everybody freaks out. For reasons not completely understandable to me, the effect is far greater on Democrats than on Republicans. This is a disease we must cure ourselves of.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I just sent this to Lou Dobbs' Moneyline. I'd encourage you to go here and send you're own. The man is driving me insane.

Maybe you should change the name of the show to "Lou Dobbs on Securing Our Borders." I feel like you should have a day count like Nightline during the hostage crisis. I can't stand watching the show anymore - it's as if you are playing a tape of the same show every night. Even just now, I decide to give you another try figuring you'd have to be covering THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY, and I hear Lou say, "secure our borders" the second I watch. CNN is my network, but when Lou Dobbs comes on... MSNBC it is.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

David Brooks has written an column in which he examines how some of the prominent politicians of the day like to "skip around" between denominations. It's interesting to note:

George W. Bush was born into an Episcopal family and raised as a Presbyterian, but he is now a Methodist. Howard Dean was baptized Catholic, and raised as an Episcopalian. He left the church after it opposed a bike trail he was championing, and now he is a Congregationalist, though his kids consider themselves Jewish.

Wesley Clark's father was Jewish. As a boy he was Methodist, then decided to become a Baptist. In adulthood he converted to Catholicism, but he recently told Beliefnet .com, "I'm a Catholic, but I go to a Presbyterian church."

Of course, there are other examples. It's not fair to paint all politicans with the same brush. But I think it's also interesting to note the politicians who maintain their religious identification yet don't adhere to all the dogma/teachings expected. See Kennedy on abortion, Kerry on homosexuality, Daschle on... well, acceptance.

Brooks compares the religious divide (or lack there of, he seems to argue) with the political divide in America.

I think this is both a good and a bad thing. Despite what some may argue, we are not a theocracy here in America. The state does not (or should not) establish or promote one faith over another. Our roots as a nation are not only with the New England puritans or the PA Quakers or the MD Roman Catholics; rather, they're with all of these groups.

Yet shouldn't our faith mean something? Shouldn't it be more than a social club? A pot luck supper? A place to go once a week? A mere obligation?

I think it should.

But thus is the complexity of religion in America: Hold fast to your faith. Evangelize, by all means. But respect others, and do it on your own time and dime, not Uncle Sam's.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I have added the ability to comment on this website now...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I first heard Martin Sheen recite this poem by Rabindranath Tagore in his introduction of Gov. Howard Dean at Union Station in Los Angeles. He earlier spoke the words at a rally for Appalachia in Athens County, Ohio.

"My Country Awake"
By Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

I have great respect for Martin Sheen. It amazes me that people will stand up and criticize actors from taking stances on controversial and political positions, and then they'll support Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor of the largest state. Don't get me wrong, I think there are a lot of people in Hollywood commenting on things they really have no knowledge on - of course, we also see this in congress. Sean Penn going to Iraq? I thought that was dumb. Putting up Margaret Cho against Jerry Falwell to debate gay marriage? She was a raving lunatic who made Falwell look like the rational one, and that's no easy accomplishment.

Sheen is different. He doesn't just embrace a cause, he embraces a philosophy. Some in Hollywood work for AIDS funding, others are against fur. Some actor/activists believe in protecting the wetlands, others are against all forms of war. Sheen doesn't narrowly align himself with just one cause - he embraces social justice in a wide array of topics. And he doesn't just use his celebrity to testify once before congress and MC a benefit concert. He puts his time, money, and personal freedom where his mouth is. Mark Pattison writes:
In the past 20 years, he has been on the front line of a lot of obscure and seemingly quixotic causes. For example, in August, he helped finance a trip to Washington for three young children who survived a 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous peasants at a church in Chiapas, Mexico; he also covered their medical expenses. Last November, he got arrested at Fort Benning, Ga., along with hundreds of other people, at the latest in an annual series of protests seeking to close down the controversial School of the Americas, which opponents say has taught torture methods to Latin American military officers. He was there again last month. He's also been a staunch supporter of the United Farm Workers union, getting arrested in a 1997 protest at a strawberry field in Watsonville, Calif.

In an interview with Sheen in the Progressive, he puts some light on his activism. There are two parts in particular I like; however, the whole interview is worth reading:
Question: Why are you so active in social justice and peace issues?

Martin Sheen: I do it because I can't seem to live with myself if I do not. I don't know any other way to be. It isn't something you can explain; it is just something that you do; it is something that you are.

Q: Do you despair, or do you have hope?

Sheen: ...

If all of the issues that I have worked on were depending on some measure of success, it would be a total failure. I don't anticipate success. We're not asked to be successful, we are only asked to be faithful. I couldn't even tell you what success is.

God writes a lot of comedy...
the trouble is,
he's stuck with so
many bad actors
who don't know how
to play funny.

-Garrison Keillor


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