Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Indeed - What are the 'methods' of faith?

From a NYTimes OPED...

David J. Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical
Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in
physics, told me in an e-mail message, "I have more confidence in the
methods of science, based on the amazing record of science and its
ability over the centuries to answer unanswerable questions, than I do
in the methods of faith (what are they?)."

Most people realize that a persons view of the universe - even the
'small' one each of us encounters day-to-day - should be governed by a
kind of 'basic scientific method'. Rational thinking of this kind
keeps you from walking off the top of a tall building, stepping out
into traffic, etc.

However, most Americans also believe 'faith' to be another window into
reality. Never mind that NONE of its "predictions" can be verified or
tested. They may be comforting -- as belief in Santa Claus is
comforting to a child -- but that doesn't make them true.

The ability of otherwise rational people to compartmentalize like this
is fascinating to me. Holding onto mythological and fantastical
beliefs must have imbued homo sapiens with some type of evolutionary
advantage ... at some point... or maybe it was a spurious result of
our complex brains.

In either case, using two distantly opposite methods of discerning
reality to navigate the world is at the cause of our problems today.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More secrets ...

White House visitor logs are public documents, a federal judge ruled Monday, rejecting a legal strategy that the Bush administration had hoped would get around public records laws and let them keep their guests a secret.

The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration, which has fought the release of records showing visits by prominent religious conservatives.

Is there nothing this administration won't do to keep the most mundane of its activities secret?
 
I guess I'd be embarrassed too if the likes of the Rev. Hagar and Falwell paid visits to my office...
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seer Stones and Other non-sense

I'm growing more and more frustrated with the state of election-related dialog in this country... It's normally completely inane, but the entire discussion around Mitt's 'beliefs' has me flabbergasted.

Why is a discussion of religious belief off limits? Why are these beliefs immune from rational discussion? If someone where to expound on the virtues of channeling dead relatives, you can be assured the ridicule would essentially bar them from holding elected office. Similarly if someone believes the world is flat that would also disqualify them from holding office. However, the beliefs of a man who aspires to the highest office in the land are danced around as if questioning them violated our highest laws.

For instance, Mormons believe that Joe Smith, their founder, used "Seer Stones" to receive a revelation from god. Well, many others who lived during he era also used seer stones... and other such nonsense.. in scams designed to separate farmers and other folks from their money. In fact, Joe himself used the same stones as a "money digger" before 'god' decided to redirect his enterprise:

Wikipedia:

In the early Latter Day Saint movement, seer stones were used as method of divination and played a significant role in its history and theology. Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, owned several seer stones from his earlier career as a "money digger." [1] Other early Mormons such as Hiram Page, David Whitmer and Jacob Whitmer also owned seer stones. [2] Seer stones are mentioned in the Book of Mormon and in other Latter Day Saint scriptures. James Strang, who claimed to be Joseph Smith's designated successor, also unearthed what he said were ancient metal plates and translated them using seer stones.

What people believe matters. If they believe fantastic things about our universe they should be questioned on it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mitt Romney's windy, worthless speech. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

Hitchens put it succintly -- Mitt Romney's windy, worthless speech. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine:

"A long time ago, Romney took the decision to be a fool for Joseph Smith, a convicted fraud and serial practitioner of statutory rape who at times made war on the United States and whose cult has been made to amend itself several times in order to be considered American at all. We do not require pious lectures on the American founding from such a man, and we are still waiting for some straight answers from him."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Power in the hands of fools

My hope for the future of mankind ebbs each day... At least each day I read stories like this.

A country that can try and convict someone of "insulting religion and inciting hatred" for naming a teddy bear is simply not civilized.

There is no way to deal with the stupidity induced by religion. Those infected are simply lost. The only thing we can hope to do is stop the infection from spreading to children. Unfortunately, parents feel it necessary to inculcate their children before they can recognize this foolishness for what it is:

poison.




Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hagel: Bush administration is 'incompetent' and he would consider joining a Dem ticket - On Politics - USATODAY.com

Not that anyone who checks this blog needs to hear another voice calling this administration incompetent, but...

Hagel: Bush administration is 'incompetent' and he would consider joining a Dem ticket - On Politics - USATODAY.com:
"'This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen personally or ever read about,' the always blunt and frequently quotable Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said yesterday during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. 'This administration in my opinion has been as unprepared as any administration I'm aware of,' Hagel added, 'not only the ones that I have been somehow connected to and that's been every administration -- either I've been in Washington or worked within an administration or Congress or some way dealing with them since the first Nixon administration. I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus -- almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade. ..."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

America in the Time of Empire

Truthdig - Reports - America in the Time of Empire:
"Democratic freedoms are diminished in the name of national security. And the erosion of basic services, from education to health care to public housing, has left tens of millions of citizens in despair. The displacement of genuine debate and civil and political discourse with the noise and glitter of public spectacle and entertainment has left us ignorant of the outside world, and blind to how it perceives us. We are fed trivia and celebrity gossip in place of news. An increasing number of voices, especially within the military, are speaking to this stark deterioration. They describe a political class that no longer knows how to separate personal gain from the common good, a class driving the nation into the ground."
I can't say it better....
The United States has gone from being the world’s largest creditor to its largest debtor. As of September 2006, the country was, for the first time in a century, paying out more than it received in investments. Trillions of dollars go into defense while the nation’s infrastructure, from levees in New Orleans to highway bridges in Minnesota, collapses. We spend almost as much on military power as the rest of the world combined, while Social Security and Medicare entitlements are jeopardized because of huge deficits. Money is available for war, but not for the simple necessities of daily life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Brick Testament - Judges 19


The Brick Testament

One of my 'favorite' stories from the old testament.

Maybe someone can explain to me why offering your concubine up to be raped... and then subsequently murdering and dismembering her teaches us something about god.

The Brick Testament is really a good teaching tool. It gives the reader a visual of some of the many atrocities described in "the good book".

Friday, November 02, 2007

Madison

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
- James Madison

Bushism of the day...

The Complete Bushisms - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine
"We're going to—we'll be sending a person on the ground there pretty soon to help implement the malaria initiative, and that initiative will mean spreading nets and insecticides throughout the country so that we can see a reduction in death of young children that—a death that we can cure."
—Washington, D.C., Oct. 18, 2007
Click here to see video of Bush's comments.The Bushism is at 1:58.

You'd think that with ~6 years in office... people coaching him... and all that practice our leader would be at least able to layout a coherent thought in a speech. I'm not talking about perfect grammar... I just want to hear/read something that I don't have to ponder to interpret.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Closet Republican busted having a gay "tryst" on the down-low

The high and mighty moral republicans have another one of their club members engaging in immoral behavior - while at away at a Republican Retreat nonetheless...

read more | digg story

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yet Another 12 Iraq War Veteran Army Captains Call For Withdrawal

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam.

read more | digg story

Monday, October 15, 2007

Policy and Spending out of control...

Under Bush 1 the ENTIRE defense budget was less than $300 BILLION dollars...

Bush 2 has asked for a 191 BILLION dollar supplement this year -- that's in addition to the 750 BILLION in the regular defense budget. We have approx 200,000 men in combat half a world away... mostly engaged in nation-building and police work.

This is the policy response to 19 men attacking the country with $1.99 box cutters.

Hollywood couldn't come up with a more outlandish story.

Yes, I've oversimplified the situation, but the point remains: Expanding empire is not a way to safeguard the homeland... Pretending to "make the world safe for democracy" in an attempt to alleviate anti-Americanism will backfire as surely as it did for the Brits last century.

History has demonstrated that democracies aren't destroyed from without -- they are destroyed from within. The Brits know this all too well -- and it appears we intend on learning the same lesson in the same way: spending trillion of dollars in an attempt to re-make the world in "our image".

The fall of the American empire is well underway ... those in power are simply accelerating it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ex-general: 'No end in sight' in Iraq - Yahoo! News

Ex-general: 'No end in sight' in Iraq - Yahoo! News: "-

So many former multi-star generals speaking out about the incompetence of our political leaders, its amazing ANYONE has any confidence in them...
The U.S. mission in Iraq is a 'nightmare with no end in sight' because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday."

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency — such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.
...

When asked when he saw that the mission was going awry, he responded: "About the 15th of June 2003" — the day he took command.

"There is nothing going on today in Washington that would give us hope" that things are going to change, he said.

The cost of the dogmatic faith in our "righteousness" of the true believers is measured in lives lost and ruined... on both sides of this conflict.
"After more than 4 years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to achieve victory in that war torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism"

"From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration's latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power,"

"The latest revised strategy is a desperate attempt by the administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war and they have definitely have NOT been able to communicate that reality to the American people."

"Continuing changes and manipulations to military strategy alone will not achieve victory, the best we can do with this strategy is stave off defeat,"

"The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the State Department, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable."

"As a Japanese proverb says action without vision is a nightmare."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's about bad energy policy

At it's root, the Iraq war is about access to the world's dwindling oil reserves. Everyone knows it, but no one in government will say that. There is a better way -- redirect the energy we expend trying to "secure access" into American innovation. Lets develop and SELL the energy technology of the future to the rest of the world.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Waste...

Truthdig ... a good site for news ... has a new article by Bob Scheer. I have to quote:

In the effort to retaliate against terrorists who hijacked planes six years ago with an arsenal of $3 knives, this year's overall defense budget has been pushed to $657 billion.  We are now spending $3 billion a week in Iraq alone, occupying a country that had nothing to do with the tragedy that sparked this orgy of militarism.

That kind of sums it up...

Read the whole thing here.

Just what we need

Fred Thompson -- just what we need in the race: an actor with nothing more than an image. He's the "regular guy" people seem to adore.

Why do Americans always seem to vote for the guy they want as their drinking buddy? After the current debacle don't people realize we (at least) need someone with smarts in the White House?

Image coupled with incompetence got us where we are -- and the supposed darling of the party offers the same package.

If this yahoo wins I'm outta here -- there's no hope.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How to lead...

Imagine the following speech by the president:
This administration intends to be candid about its errors. For as a wise man once said, "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors.... We're not going to have any search for scapegoats ... the final responsibilities of any failure are mine, and mine alone.
What would happen to W's credibility if he spoke these words? It would likely skyrocket -- well, skyrocket is relative, but I'm sure it would improve immensely.

Starting such a frank discussion with the American people would demonstrate real leadership: an acknowledgment of the obvious would go a long way toward addressing a leadership legacy that -- at this point -- is probably the worst in American history.

However, our leader appears to be incapable of seeing his actions as errant -- or even learning from them. He doesn't see mistakes, just "bigger challenges" that take more determination. This is the style of the oligarch: of someone who sees himself as infallible or, at least, much smarter than those who dissent.

This puts the country on a single-tracked path --with no way of changing course. This is what we see in W's "leadership" style: a steadfastness in the face of overwhelming evidence that a re-evaluation is needed.

Actually a president did speak the above words. They were spoken by JF Kennedy -- after the Bay of Pigs disaster. That president's approval rating shot up after the speech.

Demonstrating contact with reality will have that effect... Unfortunately, I don't expect this president to demonstrate any contact with reality.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Alter: Is GOP Collapsing Under the Weight of Sleaze? - Newsweek Between the Lines - MSNBC.com

Alter: Is GOP Collapsing Under the Weight of Sleaze? - Newsweek Between the Lines - MSNBC.com: "When House Majority Leader Trent Lott asked all Republican senators to show up at Clinton's 1998 State of the Union address as a sign of respect for the office, Larry Craig was one of only two senators who refused, later calling Clinton a 'nasty, bad, naughty boy.'"

I know the story has been blogged to death -- but this Newsweek article asks the right quesion: what will it take for Republican hypocrisy to finally convince the faithful that these self-righteous windbags are just that: a bunch of loud-mouths who spew "morality" while leading lives of decept ...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A nation for all?

On Tuesday, following an address to the American Legion's national convention in Reno, Bush met with northern Nevada family members of soldiers who have perished in combat. Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart was killed in combat in Afghanistan, was not invited, even though other relatives of Sgt. Stewart were. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sgt. Stewart's parents and brother were invited to the brief, private meeting with the president. So was the widow of one of the other National Guardsmen killed with Sgt. Stewart when their Chinook helicopter was shot down.

Why wasn't the widow invited? Because she sued the VA on behalf of her dead husband - she wanted to have the Wiccan pentagram placed on his tombstone. But the Wiccan faith isn't recognized by "our" government... so she had to go to court to defend her (and our) supposed freedom of religion.

In addition to the obvious religious bias out government exudes, the above demonstrates the level of "love for the troops" our leader truly has.

As most people who read this blog already know -- GW is simply a political opportunist: and one of the worst-kind if you ask me. He uses the flag, faith and "family values" to mask him incompetence and greed (for both power and $$).

Self-deception is the start of all decline... It gives me no pleasure to note that the US is on the broad road to irrelevance. If GWs legacy is anything, its that he added a few lanes to that highway.

Update 30 Aug 2007
Today, Bush called Stewart and apologized for failing to invite her to the meeting with veterans’ families. He also said he does not believe the Wiccan faith should be discriminated against.


Better late than never...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gambing for the wealthy

That's about all the stock market really is.


There was a time when the stock market actually served capitalism (and society) in a way that benefited society at large.  That time has long since passed however: now the market is nothing more than a playground for those with a lot of $$ and time on their hands. If you actually believe it is more than that… well, read on.


There was a time when stocks, and the market, served a functional purpose. Namely, if a company needed capital to build a new factory, upgrade equipment or otherwise purchase durable goods that company could issue stock. Essentially stock is a contract between a lender and borrower that says "you give me some capital, and I'll repay you out of the profits I make". Usually, that included the paying of dividends. Lenders also hoped the value of the underlying "stock" increases as the company grew and succeeded in the market.


None of that is relevant today. Please try to think of a company that has issued stock to finance a purchase of durable goods… or any purchase. Most stock IPOs are simply a way of realizing value for the shareholders who started the company.


And if you actually think stock prices are actually tied to corporate performance just track a sample of stock prices vs earnings to see what I mean. Stock prices aren't set by corporate performance – they are set by investor perceptions. Remember Amazon, Yahoo! and a host of others (not just tech co's either)? They didn't even plan to show profits for years, yet people were willing to BET that the investment would be worth something. That perception alone drove the prices into the ridiculous range.


Now the entire economy is held hostage to these markets… And those markets are driven not by actual performance of the underlying companies – you don't even hear analysts talking about that – the markets are driven by investors' perceptions.


The system is based on a delicate house of cards held together by money-brokers who decide for themselves when the market will rise or crash. Like any pyramid scheme, when enough of them decide its time to take profits, the pyramid scheme collapses leaving a few holding the bag. After a bit, they come back in, start hyping new companies and the cycle starts again. Again, like any good pyramid scheme, it depends on a continual supply of folks will to believe the hype, jump in the game and hope they aren't left holding the bag.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How to artfully dodge the issue

Not Exactly Responsive

Bush deserves some credit for acknowledging some of the criticisms that have been leveled against the White House position on Iraq. Typically Bush has either ignored or badly mischaracterized his critics. Yesterday, however, Bush did a creditable job of describing some of the charges against him.

For instance, Bush said: "Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al-Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. They claim that the organization called al-Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and that it's not interested in attacking America."

But his rebuttals were sometimes not really responsive. Case in point:

"Some note that al Qaida in Iraq did not exist until the U.S. invasion -- and argue that it is a problem of our own making. The argument follows the flawed logic that terrorism is caused by American actions. Iraq is not the reason that the terrorists are at war with us. We were not in Iraq when the terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. We were not in Iraq when they attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We were not in Iraq when they attacked the USS Cole in 2000. And we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001."

But critics are not saying that terrorism is America's fault, nor that the invasion of Iraq caused 9/11. They're saying that the way America fights terror matters. Good strategy can minimize terrorism; bad strategy can play right into the terrorist's hands.

The last couple of sentences sum-up the situation ... succinctly and "obviously". The fact that our leader won't address this 500 lb gorilla sitting in the corner of the room tells me he is:

1- insane,
2- more stupid than anyone can imagine,
3- a liar.

I vote 3 ... with a good dose of 2 thrown in...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Government out of control

How much worse can it get??

Law-makers have -- in recent years -- passed laws that effect only one or two individuals. As bad as this is, the latest version directly undermines whats left of our justice system.

In an amendment to the pending defense appropriations bill that passed last night on a voice vote, the House usurped the president's pardon authority by commuting the sentences of the two former Border Patrol agents convicted in 2005 ...

The amendment that passed last night, sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., provides: "None of the funds made available under this Act shall be used by the Bureau of Prisons to incarcerate Ignacio Ramos or Jose Alonso Compean." But the Constitution entrusts the power to pardon offenses against the United States or to commute sentences exclusively to the president. The enumerated legislative powers do not hint at a concurrent authority in Congress.

I guess there's absolutely no shame left in our representatives: using the power of their office to undermine the legal system. What next? Laws to make sure your buddy can rip off the taxpayers with complete immunity?

Oh, that's already happened --- Haliburton.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prop up that bogey man...

Bush Insists Al Qaeda in Iraq Threatens U.S. - New York Times: "The president’s remarks focused almost entirely on links between the two groups and on threats they pose."

Tyranny thrives in the presence of fear. That this clearly illogical message still resonates with a small portion of the populace doesn't say much for our ability to reason.

Not surprising however - there's still a small percentage of American's who think the world is approx 6000 years old.

I'm not into conspiracy theories, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if some catastrophe befell the nation several months before the next election. That's the only way the current set of tyrants can maintain their grip on power.

I just hope the majority sees it coming...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cost of War

I was recently reading a story on the cost of the Iraq war. Most estimates put the daily cost at around $200,000,000 (200 million) per day. Government allocations, as identified in the budget, show that the US Government has already spent more than $450,000,000,000 on the war. This doesn't include the costs of care for returning vets... That's likely to continue for decades and push the costs well past $1,000,000,000,000.

Motivated by a comment on an earlier post, I thought I'd try to give folks some perspective on these numbers: most people simply cannot grasp how big "a million" really is... let alone a billion.

For instance, if you were to start counting $100 bills at the rate of 1/sec ... how long do you think you'd have to count to "pay back" the $450 billion spent so far?

A month?

Six months?

A year?

Try more than 142 years...

The amounts of money we are talking about are staggering. Throwing out labels like billion or trillion simply doesn't do them justice.

What makes the situation completely intolerable is that the money isn't making the world a better or safer place for you, me or anyone else.

Well, maybe for Haliburton shareholders.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

From where does it come?

I was having lunch with a friend the other day when the conversation drifted onto religion. A co-worker had expressed some mutual-exclusive stances (based on Mormonism) and I was explaining to my friend how incredible it is that some people can hold beliefs that are completely irrational when you consider their actions.

Although details of the story are ancillary to my point, I find it amazing that someone (the co-worker) could be a soldier in the US Military… have served time in combat in Iraq… yet maintain that they couldn't watch "Letters from Iwo Jima" because it was "R" rated and contained violence.

"But you train to kill people…". I'd protest. "You've sworn an oath to fight for your country, follow the orders of your seniors… you've seen real combat and bloodshed. Why doesn't your faith prohibit that??"

I have respect for those who object to violence in any form: whether portrayed or actual. At least their reasoning is consistent. But this: To believe it ok to serve in the military - in combat, but "bad" to watch a violent movie -- seems literally crazy.

The answer is more non-sense than I care to go into. Apparently, it's ok to serve the interests of your political leaders and kill others, but watching a historical movie about another such episode in our history is verboten.

I am amazed at how some people can compartmentalize their reasoning centers. I truly don't understand how some people function in our society.

Anyway, back to the lunch discussion. After we both had a chuckle over the obvious non sequitur, my lunch friend felt obligated to point out that religion does serve some good purpose: namely, giving us morality. As the check came I was preparing to dispute that claim with the following example (but was thwarted by a quick change of subject and subsequent distractions!)

First, there are far too many examples of "bad morality" both practiced and taught by the worlds' religions. Any examination of the old or new testament or the Koran will easily very the point. Second, there are a smorgasbord of historical outrages committed by the people who do the teaching – right up to the present day. Next, why do we feel compelled to even consult ancient barbarians about morals and ethics? It's like asking Neanderthal about physics… and lastly I offer a simple scenario.

Imagine (not that hard to do) that three different people see a homeless person on the street… The person sits quietly with a sign: "any help appreciated" … It's hot out, its obvious the man hasn't eaten in some time. All three of our hypothetical "good Samaritans" decide to help this person. Let's examine them.

The first person to come upon the scene is an atheist. This atheist sees the person – and realizing that we all only have a finite amount of time on this earth before we return to dust takes pity on him. He further realizes he would hate to be hot, hungry and without companionship. He takes the man to a diner for a sandwich.

The next person is "christian1" … Christian1 sees the homeless man and realizes that Jesus is his example in all things… that he should help this man as it would be the "Christian thing to do". He thinks this is what his lord would want him to do – he wants to be a good Christian… he wants to please Jesus. He takes the man to a diner for a sandwich.

The next person is "christian2"… Christian2 sees the homeless man and realizes that Jesus and his faith command him to help… the impetus doesn't come from him, but from his desire to be obedient. He takes the man to a diner for a sandwich.

We could add "neo-con Christian" – who sees the homeless man and reasons that if god wanted him to be comfortable and fed the man would have a job and a house.

While this scenario simplifies the emotional and empathetical facets of the individuals involved it does illustrate the differences in motivation. The question is – which man is "most moral"?

I know I'd be most proud if my child were to act out of empathy for another human being – not because some hero or authority figure desired or commanded it – but because he realized – intrinsically – it was the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bad advice

This stuff just pisses me off...
President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education.

Dr. Richard Carmona, the nation's 17th surgeon general, told lawmakers that all surgeons general have had to deal with politics but none more so than he.

I know I shouldn't say this, but Jan 2009 can't come fast enough... This administration has screwed up more areas of government than ANY other...
Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.

"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are."

The worse part is that it was obvious it was coming -- all you had to do was look at this guys background: a looser and a drunk until he was 40, then a born-again nut-case.


No wonder the rest of the world thinks we're a bunch of idiots.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in ’05 - New York Times

U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in ’05 - New York Times: "A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning."
I can hardly wait to see how the Republican spin machine - AKA FoxNews -- sums up this story. If you ever watched the channel -- especially after things starting going badly for the neocon crowd -- there was hardly a day when Clinton and "the liberals" weren't blamed for essentially causing 9/11 -- for not taking a shot at Osama back in the 90's.

Chris Wallace even tried to ambush Clinton with the "why didn't you take-out Osama when you had the chance?" question during an interview that was supposed to be about the Clinton Global Initiative.

I'm sure there will be a way to blame it on the Democrats and liberals... I just can't wait to hear the next level of shrill irrationality from the right.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oblivious to everything but power

A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease - washingtonpost.com:

"...the discontent with the Bush presidency is broader and deeper among Republican lawmakers, some of whom seethe with anger. 'Our members just wish this thing would be over,' said a senior House Republican who met with Bush recently. 'People are tired of him.' Bush's circle remains sealed tight, the lawmaker said. 'There's nobody there who can stand up to him and tell him, 'Mr. President, you've got to do this. You're wrong on this.' There's no adult supervision. It's like he's oblivious. Maybe that's a defense mechanism.'"
It really isn't surprising but its taken most Republican's 6+ years to realize the emperor has no cloths... or brains.

I think it says more about Republican lawmakers than Bush.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reshuffling the deck chairs on the National Review cruise

From a The New Republic article... a TNR journalist sails with the conservatives from the National Review... and asks a few questions:

Reshuffling the deck chairs on the National Review cruise: "And, one morning on the deck, I discover Kenneth Starr, looking like he has stepped out of a long-forgotten 1990s newsreel. His face is round and unlined, like that of an immense, contented baby. As I stare at it, all my repressed bewilderment rises, and I ask: Mr. Starr, do you feel ashamed that, while Osama bin Laden was plotting to murder nearly 3,000 American citizens, you brought the government to a standstill over a few consensual blow-jobs?

He smiles through his teeth and says, in his soft, somnambulant voice, 'I am entirely at rest with the process. The House of Representatives worked its will, the Senate worked its will, the chief justice of the United States presided. The constitutional process worked admirably.' It's an oddly meek defense, and, the more I challenge him, the more legalistic he becomes, each answer a variation on, 'It wasn't my fault.'"

This is puritanism in its purest form: concerned about "sin" while the real issues that cause pain and suffering in our world -- the real world -- are ignored.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is this where we are headed?

A divided Supreme Court on Monday curtailed free-speech rights for students, ruling against a teenager who unfurled a banner saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" because the message could be interpreted as promoting drug use.

In its first major decision on student free-speech rights in nearly 20 years, the high court's conservative majority ruled that a high school principal did not violate the student's rights by confiscating the banner and suspending him.

The decision marked a continuing shift to the right by the court since President George W. Bush appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.
What the hell could these people possibly be thinking? Who cares if it is promoting drugs, sex or any other subject these bozo's (or you or I for that matter) don't agree with.

The entire point of "free speech" is that the government and authorities have NO RIGHT to shut-you-up simply because they don't agree with what you are saying.

This is as un-American as it gets folks... If you haven't already, WAKE UP and smell the fascists in power. Do something -- get these people out of OUR government.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cheney subverts other opinions and input

The VP simply uses his office/power to ensure his course of action is the one the president sees and likely approves. Other input, whether from the Justice dept, State dept or from the cabinet, is undermined and discounted even before it is heard.This isn't 'government': its rule by fiat.



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Friday, June 22, 2007

High Lord Cheney - above the law

Amazing... just sticking to the facts:

  1. President Bush signs EXECUTIVE ORDER 13292 -- FURTHER AMENDMENT TO EXECUTIVE ORDER 12958 -- CLASSIFIED NATIONAL SECURITY INFORMATION. The order regulates the handling, classification and declassification of national security information.
  2. VP Cheney's office refuses to comply with requests from the National Archives and Records Administration for information related to the executive order. The NA is the body responsible for carrying out the executive order.
  3. Further, Cheney's office tries to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules -- a rule just amended/put-in-place by his boss.
His defense? -- "I'm not part of the executive branch"... an argument that is more arcanely legalistic than I've yet heard coming out of this administration.

(Funny, that the VP should rely on an obscure, most likely fallacious, argument to defend his actions while those the administration imprisons in Guantanamo don't even get to challenge there incarceration in court.)

The use of secrecy in governance is the most dangerous behavior this administration -- and this person in particular -- exhibits. Government in a democracy is accomplished via the consent of the governed. How can that occur when the leaders deny their accountability to the governed?

This man should not only be removed from office -- he should be exiled. He obviously doesn't know what it means to live in a representative democracy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Try to Level the Playing Field...

A capitalist economy necessarily generates financial winners and losers. But in an economy where the discrepancy between a winner and the "average wage earner" continues to grow out of control -- well, it's time for policy to step in.

No economic system is perfect... and to believe capitalism will address all of our social ills is as stupid as waiting for Jesus to come back: neither has strong evidence of occurring.

Take for instance the case of investment bankers, hedge fund managers and the like. Sure, these are professional people who provide a service to the business community. But does that service really warrant billions of dollars of accumulated wealth while the owners pay only a fraction of the taxes that a middle-income wage earner pays?

Most sane people would say no...

An article in the WSJ points out even conservative economists are making this point:
A new argument is emerging among the pro-globalization crowd in the U.S., the folks who see continued globalization and trade as vital to the country's prosperity: Tax the rich more heavily to thwart an economically crippling political backlash against trade prompted by workers who see themselves -- with some justification -- as losers from globalization.

The sharpest articulation of this view comes from ... Matthew Slaughter, who recently left President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers to return to Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.

The recent widening of the gap between economic winners and losers is "entirely without precedent in the postwar period," Lawrence Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary and Harvard president, said at a Washington forum this week."Individuals are asking themselves, 'Is globalization good for me?' and in a growing number of cases, arriving at the conclusion that it is not," ...
How can a society justify an average educator's salary of around $48,000 a year, while someone who runs a investment banking firm pays 15% taxes while accumulating 7 BILLION in assets?

To argue that "the market bears the expense" is not an argument at all. The question isn't what the market will pay for a service, but what value does that service bring to society. While I don't argue for a command economy, there must be some sane system of incentives (e.g. - taxes and tax breaks) that help to steer the economic ship in a reasonable direction.

If not, we'll simply continue down the path of the haves vs the have-nots... Where people who provide critical services (water, sewer, garbage collection) are paid subsistence wages while those who skim off the financial markets (adding nothing of value to the process) live like the aristocrats of old.

When it gets ugly enough: when the society is completely stratified with an upper class of billionaire parents leaving riches to children who perpetuate a plutocracy -- people may finally wake up and realize no abstract economic theory in and of itself provides for economic social justice.

Society and the economy require pragmatic management... Not "control", but management. Capitalism in and of itself will lead to a tyranny as sure as despotism. Governments may not always take the right actions in regard to economic policy -- in fact, some actions may make things worse -- but a laissez faire is sure to destroy our country.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ritter on the abdication of the citizenry...

What's wrong with America that we can elect and support a charlatan like Bush for 6+ years? Ritter's comments are right on: we've become a nation fascinated with consumerism -- to the exclusion of almost all else.



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Monday, June 18, 2007

Bush Officials Used RNC Server for Private E-mails

Bush Officials Used RNC Server for Private E-mails - washingtonpost.com: "Almost 90 White House officials have maintained private e-mail accounts on the server of the Republican National Committee"

"The [House Oversight] committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has been investigating whether the e-mail accounts run by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign committee violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires that every White House official "assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented."

First, the administration has to be performing constitutional duties -- not dismantling it.

Just more evidence this administration doesn't see the office as a public trust -- a job in which the people have the right to know what their government is doing. Instead, its about the secret deal and agenda.

When government ceases to be transparent, we're all in real trouble.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ritter on Liberty

I came across this while reading an article by Scott Ritter - the former UN Weapons Inspector - on TruthDig .

There is no greater breeding ground for the forces of tyranny than the surrender of civic responsibility on the part of those entrusted with the defense of liberty.

I fear not the bloody rebellion of an outraged citizenry, but rather the passive submission of a shameful mass which betrays the cause of liberty and freedom through the abandonment of the Constitution, and the obligations of citizenship derived thereof, in favor of the narcotic of consumerism. Such a mass, foreswearing blind obedience to those who profess how to best construct a cocoon that immerses the occupant in transitory comfort, is the most pressing problem facing America today. In a nation whose defining document begins, "We the People," I find that it is we the people who constitute the greatest threat to the future of America. It is not through the force of our actions, but rather the vacuum created by our inaction and apathy, a vacuum all too readily filled by those who would have us exchange our hard-fought freedoms for a gilded cage of market-driven consumerism.

-- Scott Ritter

So true.

What amazes me most about the situation we find ourselves in -- as Americans -- is how easily the majority is/was duped into sacrificing that which makes us a free people simply by the use of fear-mongering by our leaders.

They are to blame for the fear-mongering... but we're to blame for buying into it.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Child Abuse

I finally made it all the way thru Jesus Camp -- the documentary about the indoctrination of young kids by evangelical parents.

It's even scarier than I thought. My only hope is that those that follow this "formula" are so small a minority in our society that they will eventually be treated as the pariahs that they are ... and hopefully brought up on charges of child abuse.

I watched in horror as a small boy -- no more than 8 or 9 years old -- struggles with his disbelief and doubt in a room filled with tongue-speaking nut-cases determined to convince him that "his doubt" is evil and that absolute belief in Jesus is the only thing that can save him.

You can translate the pastor's exhortations: "put aside reason ... don't be skeptical... join all of your friends and just believe whatever us grown-ups tell you"

What a wonderful life-lesson.

Adults who indoctrinate children in this way are not only screwing up the kids -- for life... They are helping to screw up our society. As I recently posted on the Intellectual Insurgent's blog: many in our society value 'belief' over rationality and hence genuflect at the alter of tyranny. The relationship is so obvious (and has been demonstrated countless times throughout history) that it shouldn't even be necessary to repeat: a populace that is willing to believe in "anything" is ripe for the tyranny of a charismatic leader. Teaching children at such a young age that reasoned approaches to understanding -- such as the scientific method -- are not only inferior to faith but dangerous is a path to the dark ages.

We need another Enlightenment -- a realization that the human mind is capable of wondrous things, not the least of which is using reason, logic and observation to glean truths from not only our physical world, but the world of ethics and morality. Because if there are truths in the world of morality and ethics -- and there are -- they are discernible by the very mental processes that allow rational people to recognize real moral teachings (such as the golden rule) and dismiss bogus ones (like stoning your neighbor for working on the sabbath).

It is simply a sign of mental illness -- or brainwashing in this case -- when an individual truly believes that someone should be punished or held in disdain for breaking one of god's pseudo-rules.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell the fallen

The bigot and charlatan has finally been silenced. I think Hitchens captured my thoughts:
The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network [CNN], have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?

People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup. The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.
What's truly amazing is how many Americans bought into his message of intolerance and hate. The only thing unfortunate about his demise is that his replacement will likely be younger but just as ignorant... at least he won't have as big a mouth-piece. We can only hope Americans continue to move away from these idiots.

The Depth of Delusion

I was on an airplane the other day. I was passing the hour and half flight by reading Erhman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

I sat next to a rather pleasant and soft spoken woman, who, after a bit, asked be about the book. After showing her the title, she asked about it... stating "what a provocative title". A discussion ensured.

Of course, it was easy for me to assume she was a christian -- most American's claim to be followers. As the discussion continued, I discovered she was one of the devout -- she produced a small bible with not pasted inside.

I explained that Erhman was a former evangelical, who, after having studied (starting at Moody bible college, thru Weaton and onto the ancient manuscripts that make up the books of the bible became convinced that we don't have an accurate representation of any of the books now known as the new testament.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The latest Marvel comic-book hero...

"The Commander Guy!" ...

What are the 30 or so percent of the American populace who still look favorably on the CinC think when they hear such phrases uttered by the man occupying the office-formally-known-as "leader of the free world?

Demonstrable incompetence... a command of the language equal to that of most illegal immigrants... an inability to learn from his (or other peoples) mistakes...

"National disaster" doesn't begin to describe this presidency. Having no words of my own to describe it, I'll rely on Christopher Buckley -- son of William F. and probably the funniest right-winger alive, who called Bush's governing philosophy " incontinent conservatism," and asked:

Who knew, in 2000, that "compassionate conservatism" meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief?

Don't forget "a foreign policy based on the neener-neener principle -- we know better than you"...

Mr. President, please don't speak in public anymore... You're just helping the terrorists.

The silliness continues...

Keeping with the theme of Mormon craziness... I just read this in Utah's Daily Herald. Thanks to a friend in NV:

Convention ends with Satan and immigrants

Utah County Republicans ended their convention on Saturday by debating Satan's influence on illegal immigrants.

The group was unable to take official action because not enough members stuck around long enough to vote, despite the pleadings of party officials. The convention was held at Canyon View Junior High School.

Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan's minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.


How do these people get elected? Holding such beliefs is a clear sign of mental illness: belief in 'evil spirits' should be disqualifying for a driver's license -- yet in Utah it apparently helps you get elected to public office.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mormon president? Allah help us...

I was reading another blog on the 2008 election... The blogger was saying how Romney's Mormonism isn't really a hurdle for him since, overall, Mormonism is "undeniably a plus for America"....

Obviously, I disagree... besides the disastrous track-record our current faith-based leader has exemplified, people that buy-into -- whole-heartily -- such non-sense are truly unfit to lead.

My response:

Whoa... Ok, for the most part these people are benevolent, but their belief system is the foundation of tyranny... as is all faith-based religion.

Groups that admit revelation (i.e. - knowlege based not on evidence or reason, but revealed dogma) is scary... Such people can -- and historically have -- been EASILY manipulated. Hitler started out a close ally of the Catholic church... And his following, as those who have followed other cults-of-personality, are exactly the same type of (sorry) simpletons: Ready to cast aside reason for the mass-appeal of "following" and becoming one of the group...

Anyone who can accept that a 19th century 14 year old boy met god in the woods in upstate New York... and translated his "word" by looking at a stone in a hat doesn't have a firm grip on reality. That is an obvious statement that shouldn't even have to be made. I think such non-sense should disqualify (via the exercise of informed public opinion, not via the law) these people from public office... Such beliefs should be held up to public ridicule: which they obviously deserve.

There are plenty of reasons to lead a good, moral life... none of them necessarily include the belief that ancient Israelites came to America 1600+ years ago and setup a civilization... Folks who need "god" to do good are not "good people" -- they are slaves of fear.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Mormonism -- are you serious?

There's a good mini-series (two shows?) on PBS tonight and tomorrow... the story of Mormonism.

As I write this I'm "learning" (if you can cal it that) about the history of this religion. Fascinating from a historical perspective.

As most know, the foundation of Mormonism is based on the visions of Joseph Smith. His history is interesting -- and to anyone who's sane, enough to explain the lunacy that goes by the initials LDS.

Born in an era of religious fervor -- and to a family that was itself searching for "the truth" about god -- young Joseph decided to solve the question casing strife in his home by declaring he was the recipient of the answer -- directly from god. He had the truth -- and therefore the foundation of the true church.

At least that's what he told his parents when he was about 14.

What I didn't know, was that his "revelation story" evolved over the years: It started as merely a trip to the woods to seek solace for sins... to the visitation of god the father with a message that he was the "new prophet".

Although his claims are as silly as the central tenants of christianity, many of them are (or should be) much easier to dispel: for instance, the idea that jews migrated to America is so preposterous it would seem to be dismissable out of hand -- if there wasn't a large group of people who actually believe it.

Never mind that there's no trace of such a civilization on the N. American continent... Never let evidence -- or the lack of it -- get in the way of a belief.

I love that Jackson Country, Missouri, was the place Joseph said was the ancient location of the Garden of Eden and would one day be the future Zion. The local folks didn't like it when the Mormons started moving in however...

Imagine, a Missouri pissed off about a group of religious folks moving in! Of course, Joe Smith said god was gonna give them the land... I guess even if Jesus himself came to confirm it would piss off the red-state, NRA members down south -- especially today...

Anyway, if you get a chance, tune in. A fascinating study in the human psyche -- and the need to believe we'll somehow survive death. People will swallow almost anything, as long as there's eternal happiness with all your friends and family promised at the end.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cheney -- why?

I've been pretty busy with work and other commitments lately... but I did catch Cheney giving a rebuttal to Senator Reid's comments the other day. Reid's response was a weak as Cheney's comments were vacuous.

I only have one question: why does ANYONE listen to anything Cheney has to say? Everything he's ever uttered has turned out to be a lie or completely wrong... If he told me he knew the sun was going to rise tomorrow I'd begin to harbor serious doubts (that's something coming from an orbit analyst).

Is it 2008 yet?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The apology of tomorrow

I listened to part of fearless leader's speech the other day: the one in which he praised the Tuskegee Airmen and awarded them the Congressional Gold Medal.

The president rightly pointed out that

They were fighting two wars. One was in Europe and the other took place in the hearts and minds of our citizens,

 Yet this president, along with his predecessors, are setting the stage for the same injustice with "don't ask don't tell".

How long will it be before a president apologizes to all of the brave gay men and women who serve – only to be treated as second-class citizens because of the person they choose to love.


Bigotry is indeed truly blind.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The crutch

I just read Steve Alderman's response to Sam Harris' oped in the LA Times...

Alderman argues that real "ethics, morals" etc. come from a foundation in belief in god. I find this offensive and respond:

Alderman's response to Harris' thesis demonstrates a lack of "American thinking"...

Harris doesn't go into the "deeper reasons" in his oped, but to the thinking man there are an abundance of reasons to be compassionate, moral and ethical. They are infinitely more "deep" than "because god wants me to".

Conceiving of such is no harder than realizing we are social creatures: who depend on one another for all facets of our existence. Evolution has built familial compassion into each of us -- and a social nature (as it has for many species). How successful would a colony of ants be without such evolutionary behaviors let alone mankind?

We also have reason: the ability to rationalize and realize that the golden rule is really a practical way to conduct our affairs if we wish to remain members of a society. It takes realizations no more "deep" to conclude that compassion holds very real "meaning" for every person.

However, attributing our sense of compassion to "god" is demeaning in the extreme. It places us lower (on the behavioral evolutionary scale) than most social animals -- it implies the only reason we behave somewhat socially is because of "His" influence. I need no such "patriarch" to keep me in line -- I have my brain.

The sooner mankind discards this crutch the sooner we'll be able to use our gray matter to make real progress in the areas of ethics and morals: areas that are now discussed in bronze-age terms revolving around sex and sexism instead of their real foundation in human suffering.

Money quote...

From Sam Harris in his debate with Andrew Sullivan:

The inadequacies of the Bible: What is the intellectual justification for considering the Bible to be the inspired word of God, given how much bad stuff (like slavery) is in there, and how much good stuff (like all of science) isn't? Do you really think that no mere mortals could have written Mark, Matthew, John and Luke? Not even the combined talent of a first-century Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy? It seems to me that this textual claim really lies at the core of the matter: either the Bible is a book like any other great work of literature, or it's a magic book. Once one accepts it to be a magic book, I agree that a wide range of religious implications follow; but if one doesn't accept this claim, it seems to me that the basis for being a Christian (as a opposed to anything else) evaporates. Would it really surprise you if God told you that the Bible was a product of fallible, human minds? And if this wouldn't truly astound you (in the way that finding out that George Washington never existed presumably would), how can you claim to be so certain of the doctrine of Christianity?

Kind of sums it up...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Biggest Threat...

The comptroller general, David Walker, is currently on a "Fiscal Wake-up" tour...

"I would argue that the most serious threat to the United States is not someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan but our own fiscal irresponsibility."

"The prescription drug bill was probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s," Walker argues. With one stroke of the pen, Walker says, the federal government increased existing Medicare obligations nearly 40 percent over the next 75 years.

"On cost we're number one in the world. We spend 50 percent more of our economy on health care than any nation on earth," he says.

"We have the largest uninsured population of any major industrialized nation. We have above average infant mortality, below average life expectancy, and much higher than average medical error rates for an industrialized nation," Walker points out.

Where is the leadership?

You're probably expecting to hear from someone who disagrees with the comptroller general's numbers, projections, and analysis. But hardly anyone does. He is accompanied on the wake-up tour by economists from the conservative Heritage Foundation, the left-leaning Brookings Institution, and the non-partisan Concord Coalition. The only dissenters seem to be a small minority of economists who believe either that the U.S. can grow its way out of the problem, or that Walker is over-stating it.

"The Wall Street Journal for example calls you 'Chicken Little,' running around saying that the 'sky is falling, the sky is falling,'" Kroft remarks.

"Unfortunately they don't get it. I don't know anybody who has done their homework, has researched history, and who's good at math who would tell you that we can grow our way out of this problem," Walker replies.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke validated much of Walker's take on the situation at congressional hearings this year. 

Over the next year, the nation's top accountant will be traveling to the early primary states, telling voters that we need to begin raising taxes or government revenues and put a cap on federal spending if we want to maintain our economic security and standard of living. 

"If you tell them the truth, if you give them the facts, if you explain this in terms of not just numbers but values and people, they will get it and empower their elected officials to make tough choices," Walker argues. 


 



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Old Fashioned Conservatism

Andrew Sullivan had a great post the other day.

Talking about Ike:

Can you imagine a Republican candidate saying the following today?

"Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace."

Those were the days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tom Delay – Enemy of all that is American…

I didn't get to see the former majority leader on Russert's show, but I did catch him on NPR this morning. It simply astounds me that someone can rise to such power in the American form of government without a basic understand of what that government stands for.

 

The interview was a study in altered realities: the man known as "The Hammer" denied that he was authoritarian leader who used a strong arm to keep the republican caucus in line. Instead, he painted a picture of his time in congress as a consensus builder: even if only for his republican colleagues.

 

However, his world-view couldn't help but peak-out when asked about working with democrats from across the isle: "Why would I want to work with the enemy?" … Maybe because they are elected representatives and fellow American's who have a different perspective on an issue?

 

Nah…

 

He freely spoke of doing what it took to keep the republican majority in power… and was obviously proud of the K-Street project: the mob-style extortion scheme he spearheaded to remove any democratic influence from the lobbying system and ensure 1-party received the VAST majority of funding.

 

Not that the lobbying system wasn't already broken: but at least lobbyist worked with representatives from both parties – hedging their bets. Delay introduced the "innovation" of demanding that any lobbyist who worked with him and his party completely disassociate themselves from any of "the enemies" from across the isle. His "winner take all" approach to funding paralleled the way his congress rammed legislation thru without much debate or open dissent.

 

Many would say that he simply was vigorously representing his ideals and those of his constituents… But ideals – as expressed by our representatives -- should be grounded in an understanding of a free society based on the protection of the "inherent" rights of the citizens. That means "all citizens" – not just white Christians. A brief look at the way the man used power quickly dispels any illusion that Delay understands that premise – the premise of the American experiment.

 

From the Shaivo case to his attempts to enact laws based on conservative Christian dogma, Delay embodied everything that was anti-American. His agenda was not only partisan, but anti-American in the sense that is was based on narrow religiously-founded beliefs in "right and wrong" – beliefs not based on the governments right to restrict or punish behavior that infringes on the rights of others… but on the belief that certain behaviors were an affront to the Christian god.

 

His perspectives are hardly surprising however. Delay spoke about his "born-again" experience and his redemption from a life of booze and partying: There's nothing scarier than a reformed drunk, high on self-righteousness, in a position of power. Coupled with an absolute belief in the power of the free market to address all of society's ills, you have the recipe for governance based on a radical-ideology: an ideology based on the premise that "not only do I have the answers, but I know I have the answers because god is on my side…"

 

And that's what we had during his tenure in congress… I only hope people see the radicalism of his approach to governance – and continue to reject it as they did in the midterms.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Brownback - bigot, enemy of freedom

Capt Fogg has a great post on Sen Brownback... He captures my feelings exactly.

These people simply don't know what "morality" means.


read more | digg story

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Swan song...

One question for Mr. McCain... who supports the continuation of the war in Iraq: "What do you hope to gain even if the violence subsides?"

The Iraqi rulers have demostrated that they are not interested in creating a liberal democracy... What do we hope to gain by staying and getting more Americans killed?

This is the issue that killed the '08 McCain presidential bid...

The Republican senator from Arizona was one of 11 presidential candidates -- Democrat and Republican -- to address the annual gathering of the firefighters union. But he was the only one to risk making a passionate case before the left-leaning group about why the war in Iraq must continue.

Reading his speech and stealing quick glances at his listeners, he continued. "The hour is late, but we must try, we must!" Beefy firemen, arms folded on chests, stared back silently.

"We do have some evidence that the new tactics . . . have begun to make progress," he pleaded. Audience members whispered. Some shook heads. One raised the comics section in front of her face.

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The silliness of it all...


The conservative Christian is a study in contradictions. The ability of these folks to delude themselves is simply amazing.


I’m currently wasting my time by posting comments to another blogger’s site: of course, as many conservatives like to do, the comments are moderated so they have to make it by the censor before being posted. To his credit, my first set was posted.


Anyway, as we exchanged thoughts it quickly became apparent that this blogger, like many others, filters his world view thru the bible. When you accept such axioms you – as Kurt Godel showed – end up with some inconsistencies.


For instance, on homosexuality:


Survival of the fittest and natural selection specifically rule out homosexuality as a norm as homosexuality would cause certain distinction of a species. Sorry, but your arguments just don't hold an ounce of water.

Evolution would preclude homosexuality as being a normal part of any species. It would be a mutation or deviation that would be harmful to the propogation and proliferation of the species.


However, on the age of the earth (and its implications on evolution/Darwinism):


You start with the assumption that evolution is true and force all your "facts" to fit those conclusions; hence your belief in the myth of the billion year old fossil record.


These people are walking contradictions: for they believe what a preacher/holy book says about matters in which the evidence is not “iron clad”, but – for instance – when they are sick they go to a medical doctor. What about “moving mountains with prayer” as the bible indicates is possible for the believer?


I’m sure the apology is “god gave us a brain and we now know how to treat many injuries and diseases” … apparently god simply wanted the ancient believers to suffer and die horribly then – since many sought faith-healers in the face of disease.


What I find most amazing about most fundamentalist is that they haven’t even read their holy books. They have pondered individual passages… they have correlated conclusions that support their beliefs. But the vast majority really has no idea what it says and frankly how evil the book really is.

Just a couple of quick examples. If the book were actually either inspired-by or written-by the creator of the universe, you’d think you’d be able to get straight answers on some of the most basic questions – such as:


Was man created before or after the “beasts of the field”? Well, Genesis 1:25-27 says one thing, while Genesis 2:18-19 says the opposite.


Ok, maybe that’s not that important: god obviously thought it important enough to have it written down, but maybe the scribe got it wrong (so much for god’s omnipotence).


What about the 10 Commandments? Out of the entire bible, these laws were the only ones the creator of the universe deemed it important enough to write with HIS OWN HAND (i.e. – on the stone tablets). These must be some pretty important teachings. Let’s take a look: Exodus 20 (of course different denominations extract them differently so there’s not even agreement on what they are):


1- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

3- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

4- Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.


Etc. etc.


And finally


10- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.


Interesting that the creator rounded out his edicts with an admonishment not to covert your neighbors ox or ass. You’d think that since he was only gonna directly give his laws to us this one time, they might be a little more ‘moral’ … something like the Jains admonition to: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” A lot more succinct don’t you think?


Aside from the fact that most of the commandments don’t really deal with morality, but give instruction on who/how to worship, you’d think god would make sure the scribe would get them right when he reiterates them after the tables are smashed. But we find a completely different set of commandments delineated in Exodus 34 (Exodus 34:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.) … a few pages after the originals:


3- The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep in the month when the ear is on the corn.

6. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.

7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread.

8. The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning.


And my favorite


10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.


It is truly laughable that so many in our population think the creator of the universe gave us such instructions. Not to mention the two passages completely contradict one another.


Only the forces of human reason have been effective in staying the cruel hand of religious fundamentalists… of most any ilk. All we have to do is look back a few hundred years to see what kind of society humankind was capable of when taking the writing of these bronze-age tribesmen as the word of god…


We called the time the Dark Ages.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bizzaro-thinking from the right... or, "how to blame the left for EVERYTHING"

I was just reading an article by Dinesh D'Souza on the NRO... D'Souza has written "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11".

While I can't claim to have read the book, D'Souza summarizes a couple of his arguments from the book:

Consider whether, without the Khomeini regime coming to power in Iran in 1979, 9/11 would have occurred. Radical Islam has been around since the 1920s, but for decades it was on the margins of power. Then in 1979 it captured a major state. Khomeini was the first Muslim leader to call America the Great Satan and to call for a worldwide revolution of Muslims committing martyrdom and jihad against the U.S. The Khomeini revolution paved the road to 9/11.

So how did we get Khomeini? When Jimmy Carter was elected in 1979 his liberal advisers told him that he could not consistently uphold human rights and support the Shah of Iran. Carter withdrew American support for the shah, and in trying to get rid of the bad guy, he got the worse guy. So here is a concrete way in which liberal foreign policy handed [emphasis mine] radical Islam control of its first major state.

Is this what passes for thoughtful analysis on the right? Carter's withdrawal of support for a despised tyrant and US puppet was responsible for the rise of Khomeini? Come'on!

Iranians hatred for the Shah pre-dates the Carter administration. Organized protests may have only begun in 1978, but the populaces' disapproval with the Shah and his policies didn't spring up overnight -- His regime was one of extravigance, over-indulgence and corruption. You'd think anyone looking at the situation might consider those to be the major factors in the populace's disenchantment with the ruling class... But somehow, in D'Souza's eye, our lack of support for this corrupt man caused the state to fall into Islamic revolutionary hands.

ad absurdum...

But not for D'Souza: for him -- as for many who call themselves "conservative analysts" -- the error is always traceable back to some left-leaning leader.

I simply don't understand how anyone can read this drivel and buy it... it takes only a few moments of reflection to realize the conclusions are built on a house of cards. Yet I'm sure his book is selling well.

What hope do we have when such non-sense passes for insightful discourse?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Modern day Sadducees

Apparently, the Republican "moral and values" crowd's hypocrisy knows no bounds...

Affairs, divorce (during his wife's cancer treatments no less), marrying his congressional aid ... etc. etc. etc. ...

How many examples does the public need? The rule is simple: if someone stands up and preaches "morals and values" to you, watch out... they likely have some big skeletons rattling around in their closet.

People with that actually have morals don't preach them to others -- they just live them...
clipped from news.yahoo.com
Gingrich admits impeachment-era affair

Gingrich, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, was
asked by James Dobson of the conservative Christian group Focus
on the Family, whether he was engaged in an extramarital affair
when former
President Clinton
was involved with White House
intern Monica Lewinsky.

"The honest answer is 'yes,"' Gingrich said in an interview
released on the group's Web site. "But it's not related to what
happened."

Gingrich has been married three times. In an often-told
story, he discussed divorce details with his first wife,
Jacqueline, while she was recovering from cancer surgery.

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