Dante Atkins – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:35:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Dante Atkins – LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com 32 32 Where were the bishops when Troy Davis died? http://likethedew.com/2012/02/21/where-were-the-bishops-when-troy-davis-died/ http://likethedew.com/2012/02/21/where-were-the-bishops-when-troy-davis-died/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2012 06:45:48 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37100 The Catholic Church officially opposes capital punishment. This doctrine is in the same vein as those opposing abortion, birth control, and physician-assisted suicide: church doctrine dictates that life begins at conception and is a gift from God. Consequently, it is beyond the scope of any soul, no matter how high the earthly authority, to terminate a human life.

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On September 21, 2011, a man’s life ended. His death was not natural; it was not a product of anyone’s god; rather, the drug cocktails that caused the heart of Troy Davis to stop beating were purely the result of human artifice.

troy davisDavis was a convicted murderer who was put to death by the State of Georgia as punishment for the crimes of which he was found guilty. Like so many other death row inmates who were wrongly convicted of—and sometimes even executed for—crimes they did not commit, Troy Davis may well have been innocent. There was no physical evidence proving his crime, and many of the eywitnesses upon whom Davis’ conviction depended later recanted their testimony, citing undue pressure from prosecutors to finger the person they had apparently already decided was responsible. In the end, however, whether or not Troy Davis was guilty or not is merely salt in the wound of a far bigger outrage.

The Catholic Church officially opposes capital punishment. This doctrine is in the same vein as those opposing abortion, birth control, and physician-assisted suicide: church doctrine dictates that life begins at conception and is a gift from God. Consequently, it is beyond the scope of any soul, no matter how high the earthly authority, to terminate a human life. It does not matter if it is legal, and it does not matter if the rationale is to relieve suffering: the taking of life is God’s department, not ours.

Yet in the middle of September, as opposition to the impending execution of Troy Davis reached a fever pitch and a singular opportunity presented itself for the Church to not just call for an act of mercy, but support a key element of doctrine, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was silent as the grave. Yes, some local Catholic bishops in Georgia did support the conscience of their doctrine by calling for a reprieve, but the USCCB, the organization most responsible for lobbying and policy advocacy on behalf of the Holy See here in the United States, sat idly by. The execution of a possibly innocent man was not enough to stir the bishops into action. But birth control? That’s a different story altogether.

The directive of President Obama’s Health and Human Services Department that requires employers to cover the cost of contraceptive prescriptions was met with outrage by the USCCB. Never before, they argued, had citizens been forced to pay for things that violated their religious conscience. Not that the Church would have been forced to cover the cost of contraceptives: churches who objected receive an exemption under the directive. The Bishops even rejected a compromise that allowed women who work for affiliated organizations, such as nonprofits and hospitals, to obtain contraceptive coverage directly from an insurer, as opposed to through their employer. Apparently, preserving the “religious conscience” of an insurance company was ground that these bishops simply would not cede.

One could commend the bishops’ commitment to principle if it were based on any sincerity. Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case. Our tax dollars subsidize executions in every state where they are conducted, as well as pay for the wars and occupations that offend a true Catholic conscience, yet these bishops will not lift a finger to stop the execution of one possibly innocent man, let alone work to prevent their believers from paying for these egregious violations of doctrine.

Yes, the hypocrisy is shameful, and it serves as yet another reminder that in this mean-spirited age, the only doctrines that conservatives deem worth standing up for are those that punish and impede, rather than those that demonstrate any inkling of compassion and mercy.

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Outrage fatigue: Or, accepting that the Republicans just are that bad http://likethedew.com/2012/01/30/outrage-fatigue-or-accepting-that-the-republicans-just-are-that-bad/ http://likethedew.com/2012/01/30/outrage-fatigue-or-accepting-that-the-republicans-just-are-that-bad/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2012 07:54:28 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=36263 I am despondent. As an avid follower of political news and a self-identified solid progressive, I am experiencing strange feelings—or, more accurately, I am experiencing a strange lack of feelings. In prior election cycles, I would watch the Republican debates with energy, excitement and attention. I would be prepared to be aggrieved by their attacks on Democrats and their ever-increasing trend toward the extremes of the right wing. I would become fired up, knowing that whether it was Bush or McCain in 2000, or whether it was McCain, Romney or Huckabee in 2008, the Democratic candidate had to prevail, no matter what. Every debate would serve as a reminder and a motivator of that certain fact.

This cycle should be no different, especially now that the Republican pretenders to the throne are even more renegade than they ever have been in recent memory. In this current primary contest, the first three states have been won, respectively, by three distinct yet equally odious candidates: a former senator with a Google problem who believes that rape victims should make the best of a bad situation should they be unfortunate enough to conceive as a result of the crime; a vulture capitalist who likes to fire people and never met a policy position he didn't like if he felt it could get him a better shot at an even higher office; and ... Newt Gingrich.

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I am despondent. As an avid follower of political news and a self-identified solid progressive, I am experiencing strange feelings—or, more accurately, I am experiencing a strange lack of feelings. In prior election cycles, I would watch the Republican debates with energy, excitement and attention. I would be prepared to be aggrieved by their attacks on Democrats and their ever-increasing trend toward the extremes of the right wing. I would become fired up, knowing that whether it was Bush or McCain in 2000, or whether it was McCain, Romney or Huckabee in 2008, the Democratic candidate had to prevail, no matter what. Every debate would serve as a reminder and a motivator of that certain fact.

This cycle should be no different, especially now that the Republican pretenders to the throne are even more renegade than they ever have been in recent memory. In this current primary contest, the first three states have been won, respectively, by three distinct yet equally odious candidates: a former senator with a Google problem who believes that rape victims should make the best of a bad situation should they be unfortunate enough to conceive as a result of the crime; a vulture capitalist who likes to fire people and never met a policy position he didn’t like if he felt it could get him a better shot at an even higher office; and … Newt Gingrich. Yet even in spite of that, I cannot muster up the energy and enthusiasm to watch the continuing Republican immolation of just about everything that is fair and right in this country. While Gingrich’s proposal about lunar statehood provided a sliver of respite, it has not been enough to turn the tide or lighten the gravity of this situation.

To make matters worse, my interest was rising again after Gingrich won the South Carolina primary and appeared to be gaining a crescendo of support. But his newfound lunacy has now caused his base in Florida to crater. And as Gingrich’s support wanes, Mitt Romney’s now appears to be waxing at exactly the right time to win Florida, eliminating his final rival for the nomination that was long assumed to be his, and leaving the Republican Party in a relative sea of tranquility.

Lunar guffaws aside, the battle that will unforld once Mitt Romney wins the nomination will be a battle for the soul of America, but not in the way usually intended by Republican candidates. In his recent State of the Union Speech, President Obama laid out his vision for what America could and should be. Even if the speech was not a progressive’s dream from every policy standpoint, it focused very strongly on a few central themes with which we can all agree: reforming the tax code to end the rewarding of outsourcing, reinvesting in American manufacturing and the middle-class jobs that come with it, and investing in the education that will allow American workers to have the skills required to do the jobs of both the present and the future.

Mitt Romney has consistently presented a different vision. It’s an ideology that professes that if only plutocrats like him were less restrained by consumer protections, labor, and regulations, that they could produce all the jobs America needs through trickle-down economics, even as the stepladders to the middle class that government has already provided continue to be gutted in the name of personal responsibility. It is a vision born of a decades-long effort to rehabilitate the principles of Ayn Rand and transform them into a socially acceptable philosophy on governance while interweaving a theocratic social agenda thought unthinkable only a few years ago.

I was technically a teenager when 9/11 occurred, and just beginning to become interested in politics in a serious way. At that time, I was outraged by every single Republican attempt to erode our civil liberties while continuing to gut environmental protections and government services while enriching those who needed it the least. I was outraged precisely because I viewed it as an excess brought about by the temporary insanity that resulted from our national trauma, combined with the radicalism of the Bush administration. I expected that the election of Barack Obama would end the radical and imperial interregnum that was the Bush administration, marginalize the so called “dead-enders” and unify the country in a new era of sanity and political civility.

The truth was not as joyous, as history has shown. But I am no longer outraged, because it is far more difficult to be outraged at what is expected. Instead, as we prepare to face Mitt Romney in November, I am simply resolute: there’s a job that needs doing. Neither Romney nor the future nominees of his party can be given four years to unleash their plutocratic fancies against America’s middle class. Outrage won’t guarantee that outcome, but hard work will.

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Romney vs. Obama: Tale of two capitalists http://likethedew.com/2012/01/17/romney-versus-obama-a-tale-of-two-capitalists/ http://likethedew.com/2012/01/17/romney-versus-obama-a-tale-of-two-capitalists/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2012 05:29:49 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=35559

In the general election, I'll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try to save the business.

Thus begins likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney's defense of his activities at Bain Capital, a vulture private equity fund that made its money at least in part from taking over sick companies, looting their assets, laying off their workers, and leaving their communities destroyed in the process. It is a defense designed to accomplish multiple objectives at once: defend his practices at Bain Capital as business-saving measures; attack President Obama as a job-killer; and undermine what is widely expected to be one of the greatest strengths of President Obama's reelection campaign—his determination, in the face of staunch opposition, to save the American auto industry.

To begin with, this comparison is dangerous ground for Romney.

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In the general election, I’ll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try to save the business.

Thus begins likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s defense of his activities at Bain Capital, a vulture private equity fund that made its money at least in part from taking over sick companies, looting their assets, laying off their workers, and leaving their communities destroyed in the process. It is a defense designed to accomplish multiple objectives at once: defend his practices at Bain Capital as business-saving measures; attack President Obama as a job-killer; and undermine what is widely expected to be one of the greatest strengths of President Obama’s reelection campaign—his determination, in the face of staunch opposition, to save the American auto industry.

To begin with, this comparison is dangerous ground for Romney. In stark contrast to President Obama’s gutsy, make-or-break decision, Romney advocated for a completely different approach to the floundering American automakers: let them go bankrupt, apparently with no concern for the workers at those companies themselves or all other smaller businesses that supplied them. This stark contrast in policies and values will be a key contrast for the president to use against Romney. Romney’s defense is hypocritical first and foremost because he is comparing his actions at Bain Capital to policies that by his own admission he would not have engaged in. But more to the point, it’s also a defense that makes him completely disqualified to be president of the United States. Romney’s supposition that his actions at Bain Capital have any relation to those of the president toward American automakers shows a complete lack of understanding of the relative purposes of the private sector and the public sector. It shows a total lack of understanding about the role of the working class in any other capacity than people who can make money for him. And it shows the difference in ethnics and perspective between a vulture capitalist and a community organizer from Chicago.

The very idea that being a leveraged buyout kingpin makes one qualified to run the largest economy in the world is the result of a disease in American thinking: if we only ran the country more like a business, we as a nation would be more successful. Clearly, the truth is far more complex. In a private business, reducing employee salaries can result in increased profits, but in a national economy, those salary reductions will have a cascading effect as the economic output of those same workers is reduced. But even then, that idea was tolerable back when “running a business” was more associated with the antiquated notion of having a strategy for long-term growth. From that perspective, making investments in employees for the sake of improving productivity or attracting top talent would have been considered as sensible as a government making long-term investments in education to improve the quality and productivity of its future workforce.

But that’s not the type of long-term management and vision Mitt Romney has any experience with at all. His experience is in short-term vulture capitalism: guaranteeing the maximum rate of return for himself and his investing partners at whatever cost. If the highest rate of return could be made by saving and rebuilding the business, so be it. But if more dollars could be squeezed from a business by scrapping it and selling off the rubble than saving it, so be it: the only consideration Mitt Romney cared about was adding on to his stockpile of however many dozens of millions of dollars he is already hoarding (we don’t know how much since he won’t release his tax returns).

From a moral point of view, this should be a deal-breaker for the American people. Not because being part of the .1 percent of American incomes automatically disqualifies him—so, too, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his time—but because being the president of an entire nation requires a sense of empathy for the working class that is fundamentally incompatible with being a successful vulture capitalist.

But even if Romney’s supporters could make the case that he has the type of empathy and moral judgment that would be required of him to lead this country successfully, the larger question is whether he would even understand how to go about it. When Romney described President Obama’s rescue of the American auto industry, he said that President Obama did it to “save the business.” That perspective shows an absolute lack of understanding of the motivations a president must have when making decisions on whether to intervene. President Obama did not do it to save a business; he did it to save an economy. Romney speaks of the rescue as he might about an investor of last resort baling out a struggling company in the hopes of a long-term rate of return should the company return to health, as if the decision could be so simply boiled down. Romney does even seem to have the perspective that it’s not about the individual business: it’s about all the businesses that depend on that business. It’s about all the workers who make money at that business. It’s about all the goods and services that those workers purchase with that money, and about what those providers purchase in turn. It’s not just a business; it’s not even just an industry. It’s about the entire local economies that are dependent on that industry—economies that, if Mitt Romney had had his way, would have become hollowed-out shells that would always reminisce about days long gone by.

In the general election, voters will face a crucial choice. It will be a choice between a candidate who understands that an economy needs to work for everybody, and a candidate who can’t see past whether his fellow investors make or lose money on the deal.

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