Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quote for the day...

I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.

- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Throw the crook in jail...

FBI: Blago wanted payoff to give Obama adviser Senate seat - Jonathan Martin and Carrie Budoff Brown - Politico.com
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was captured on tape saying that unless he received “something real good” for the appointment of a top adviser to Barack Obama to fill the president-elect’s Senate seat he would appoint himself, according to the criminal complaint.
Surprise surprise -- another "public servant" using the leverage of his office for his own gain...

Throw him in jail and toss away the key...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Here we go...

Jobless Rate Soars to 6.7% in November - NYTimes.com
With the economy deteriorating rapidly, the nation’s employers shed 533,000 jobs in November, the 11th consecutive monthly decline, the government reported Friday morning, and the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent.
This is what happens when you put people that don't believe in governing in charge of government...

The act of governing is important -- yet roughly half the population still believes someone like Sara Palin is capable of it...

Anyone with half-a-brain could and should have seen this disaster coming: we don't actually produce much in this country -- and most of the "growth" we've experienced during the last 8 years was directly traceable to bankers swapping paper on wall street and private citizens using their home equity as a piggy bank... In other words, economic growth over the last 8 years has been a complete sham. Its truly been a Ponzi scheme economy and if you need more proof just stand by as all that phony money that's kept employers believing they were doing 'ok' continues to evaporate.

The only good that can come of this mess is the chance at educating the public... but I doubt it... I already hear how the current crisis is the dems in congress' fault.

If you want to really understand a bit about how we ended up here check out this link:

http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/20081108_financial_meltdown_101/


Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Right kind of Hypocrisy

So much for those "frugal" Republicans that want to reduce taxes and otherwise spend our money wisely.

According to campaign finance reports for the first half of this month, the campaign paid $22,800 to a celebrity makeup artist who has been Palin's traveling stylist.

By comparison, McCain's foreign policy adviser was paid $12,500.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Free-Market Evangelizer comes to Jesus...

I do fault Clinton for signing the damn legislation in 1999 -- but this blind faith in "free-markets" mentality (a la Phil Gramm, et al) is at the heart of this problem.

Apparently even Greenspan - the evangelizer-n-chief - realizes it now...
The former Fed chair said that a securitization system that stimulated appetite for loans made to borrowers with spotty credit histories, was at the heart of the breakdown of credit markets.

"Without the excess demand from securitizers, subprime mortgage originators -- undeniably the original source of crisis -- would have been far smaller and defaults, accordingly, far fewer," he said.

A surge in demand for U.S. subprime securities, supported by unrealistically positive ratings by credit agencies, was the core of the problem, he added.
Where did that demand come from? The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.
Title III, ensured the "Legal Certainty for Swap Agreements," which successfully divorced the granters of subprime mortgage loans from any obligation to ever collect on them. The law prohibited regulation of any of the new financial instruments permitted after the financial industry mergers.

Fannie/Fredie, Country-wide, etc. etc. were all facilitators for sure ... they were pressured to feed the beast. But why should an investment guy worry when you don't have to collect on the loan! Just create more "investments" and sell them off quickly -- who cares if they can't pay them back -- I sold it and made my profits!!

Now we'll all be paying for this debacle ... My 401k (likely like yours) is down more than 30% ... my financial adviser is recommending I sell most all of the mutual funds I have and buy blue-chips with high-dividend yields... and hold them for the next several years. At least I'll make a few percent on my money...

But I'm sure the faithful out there will somehow pin this on "liberal policies"...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Today's "right"

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote:
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Founder's quote for the day...

Thomas Jefferson quotes
Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.

-Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Loosing control

This is what happens when you are backed by a propaganda machine that's willing to propagate anything to whip up the base...

McCain Faces Backlash Over Rabid Crowds
John McCain was booed by his own supporters during a rally on Friday after he described Barack Obama as a "decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

McCain was responding to a town hall attendee who claimed he was concerned about raising a child under a president who "cohorts with domestic terrorists such as [Bill] Ayers." Despite the fact that McCain and his campaign have repeatedly used Ayers to hammer Obama in recent days, the Arizona Senator tried to calm the man.

"[Senator Obama] is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared about as President of the United States," he said, before adding: "If I didn't think I would be one heck of a better president I wouldn't be running."

The crowd groaned with disapproval.

Later, McCain was again pressed about Obama's "other-ness" and again he refused to play ball. "I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

"No, ma'am," McCain said several times, shaking his head in disagreement. "He's a decent, family man, [a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

I, like many progressives, disagree with many of McCain's policies -- and his history as a "deregulator" ... But everything I read takes issue with those policies and/or positions. Yet the right continually attacks Obama's "associations" -- or "otherness" ... tapping into that well-spring of xenophobia and other brain-stem emotions.

Such non-sense makes you wonder if our political system can survive another decade: let alone another 200 years.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The myth of the free market

This is why we need regulation...

Lehman Managers Portrayed as Irresponsible - NYTimes.com
Even as the investment bank Lehman Brothers pleaded for a federal bailout to save it from bankruptcy protection, it approved millions of dollars in bonuses for departing executives, a Congressional committee was told Monday.Another document showed that executives were warned in a January 2008 meeting that the company was facing liquidity problems. Yet the firm moved forward with capital outlays, including $5 billion in bonuses, $4 billion in shares and $750,000 in dividend payments between 2007 and the firm’s bankruptcy filing on Sept. 15.

One Lehman document among thousands reviewed by the House committee showed that four days before the bank filed for bankruptcy protection, Lehman’s compensation committee was asked to grant $20 million in “special payments” for three executives who were leaving,
But maybe these "smart folks" really earned their money - right? Well, for tens-of-millions in salary alone you'd hope at least the boss knew what was going on at his own company...
Testifying before the committee, Lehman’s chief executive, Richard S. Fuld Jr., said that he took full responsibility for the decisions he made while at the helm. But he also told lawmakers that it was unreasonable to expect that he should have seen the financial crisis coming.
In other words: he's supposedly worth the incredible salary he made, but he really couldn't be expected to actually know what his company was really doing and was really worth... Can you actually believe he had the gall to make that statement?

Free-markets are great when the market is open... when people with new ideas and better ways of doing something can easily enter (and leave) the marketplace. This is why software development and web entrepreneurship is vibrant: thousands of companies and individuals enter the marketplace with new ideas -- almost every day. You can start a software company in your den-- with little more than a $600 PC and dedication and a few good ideas.

And if you fail, your out: no government bail-outs.

But ask yourself how easy it would be to create the "better investment bank" (even if you had the most innovative idea in banking to come along in the last century)... And what are the consequences if a large one fails? Apparently, we can't just let them die.

The two industries present a completely different picture. But we're told (by conservatives who can't think past the phrase "free markets are good!") that free-market capitalism always provides the best solutions...

Why do so many Americans buy into this garbage? Why - because the Republican machine has been spewing the message for the last 30 years...

The only good to come out of this mess is the hope that people may learn a lesson... that ideology and the "purity of your economic theory" doesn't solve problems -- pragmatic thinking solves problems.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The pure over the practical

Op-Ed Columnist - Revolt of the Nihilists - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com
Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.

I’ve spoken with several House Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in free-market principles. What’s sad is that they still think it’s 1984. They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. They seem not to have noticed how global capital flows have transformed our political economy.

We’re living in an age when a vast excess of capital sloshes around the world fueling cycles of bubble and bust. When the capital floods into a sector or economy, it washes away sober business practices, and habits of discipline and self-denial. Then the money managers panic and it sloshes out, punishing the just and unjust alike.
This has been my point again and again... Free-markets are not panaceas. They need rules and regulations. Without them you end up in endless cycles where the rich and powerful -- the well-connected -- use the system to line their pockets at the expense of everyone else... That is system the nature of free-market competition: if you can leave someone else holding the bag, why not?

The dogmatism in the GOP created this mess -- and will (hopefully) be the end of that party as we know it...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Protect Sarah!

Maybe McCain has a good reason for not letting her speak to the press... incompetence anyone?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who's crying now...

Policymakers: Congress Must Move Quickly to Avert Damage - washingtonpost.com
The nation's top economic policymakers acknowledged this morning that an already extraordinary series of government actions has failed to stabilize global financial markets and said that Congress must act quickly on a proposed bailout plan to avoid dire consequences for the U.S. economy.
Funny how that works... One day you are complaining that government is on your back -- the next you're asking for billions to keep your house-of-cards together.

The Republican matra -- at least since Reagan -- has been: get government out of the way... Well, now we see what happens when we do it: the drunk frat-boy party gets rolling... and like anyone living on credit cards (we now allow banks to "leverage" there cash like they did back in the 30's) it eventually catches up to you...

Wll, looks like the boys have woken up hung-over -- and now they want the parents to pick up the bill for the damage.

How is it that those making the most noise for less regulation now have the gall to use hundreds of billions of our tax dollars to bail out the very people who's greed caused the problem in the first place? Is this the "free market" we keep hearing about from Republicans?

And to top it off they have the nerve to say "trust us -- we need to do this quickly -- without oversight or strings attached -- we need $700 billion ASAP."

Maybe they do ... but maybe taking a breath and putting a rational plan and system of oversight in place would save more pain down the road.

Maybe people will finally realize that we're not here to serve markets... they are here to serve us ... to serve society.

But I doubt it...

This country deserves the government it gets.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I can't say it better...

So I'll just quote Sam Harris' words:

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism | Newsweek Politics: Campaign 2008 | Newsweek.com
We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter's microphone, saying things like, "I'm voting for Sarah because she's a mom. She knows what it's like to be a mom." Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Palin's most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn't much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase "Bush doctrine." And I am quite sure that her supporters didn't care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to know—or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain's advisers. What doesn't she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

The very idea that McCain could choose someone so unprepared to succeed him should be proof enough that he isn't sane enough to be president... Yet for about 40+% of Americans, his choice -- and her qualifications -- are proof that's he "gets it".

Where do I get off?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Socialism a-la Bush

This administration's policies and actions have resulted in the largest move toward socialism in this country since the New Deal ...  The US gov now owns more than 50% of ALL US mortgages... has an 80% stake in the country's largest insurer and there's more to come.

So much for the "champion of free markets" -- if this is the end result of "conservative policy" (a la Gramm, McCain and other -- including democratic -- deregulationists) socialists and far left liberals should continue to elect Republicans... If Democrats proposed these policies (from the left) there would be an outcry of Marxist/socialist like the country has never seen!

... but we get it all for "free" with conservative... (Of course, we'll pay for it later -- with interest.) Talk about (corporate) welfare...

Who's up for more republican rule?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The tale of the tape...


A picture is worth a thousand words...

So why aren't most American's appauled at the choice?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More & more

So we get to see the effects of deregulated markets more and more each day...  And its costing us more and more each day too -- as we continue to bail out companies that made bad or bought bad loans...

Funny how McCain - a champion of deregulating financial markets -- is now calling for regulation.
A decade ago, Sen. John McCain embraced legislation to broadly deregulate the banking and insurance industries, helping to sweep aside a thicket of rules established over decades in favor of a less restricted financial marketplace that proponents said would result in greater economic growth. 
We got the growth all-right -- growth on a house-of-cards. The DOW was at 10,100 in Jan 2000 -- that's where it is today... Also glad my retirement isn't completely in stocks... whew. That's 8 years of zero growth if your port. follows the index.

I thought the "free market" was supposed to reward good decision makers and punish bad ones? Interesting how the corps get bailed out, but the average Joe in bankruptcy doesn't.

All these anti-Free market Bush (conservative) appointees are killing us with these bail outs!! When are we gonna put a real conservative in office?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From the right...

I don't often quote David Brooks -- although he does write the most even-handed op-eds "from the right" that I've read...

He's right on the mark with his latest column:

Op-Ed Columnist - Why Experience Matters - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com
...
In the current Weekly Standard, Steven Hayward argues that the nation’s founders wanted uncertified citizens to hold the highest offices in the land. They did not believe in a separate class of professional executives. They wanted rough and rooted people like Palin.

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

The idea that “the people” will take on and destroy “the establishment” is a utopian fantasy that corrupted the left before it corrupted the right. Surely the response to the current crisis of authority is not to throw away standards of experience and prudence, but to select leaders who have those qualities but not the smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Palin nomination in the first place.

Monday, September 15, 2008

They "brew'em up good" in small town America

WASILLA - The Matanuska-Susitna area is the methamphetamine capital of Alaska, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
In 2003, authorities uncovered nine meth labs in the area. Last year, the number increased to 42, said Kyle Young, an investigator with the troopers who works with the Mat-Su narcotics team.

Officials with the Office of Children's Services in Wasilla said the problem affects children. The office receives about 40 calls a month from people reporting abuse or neglect involving some aspect of the highly addictive drug...

When authorities surrounded a converted bus housing a meth operation in Big Lake in January, a 13-year-old boy who answered the door bragged that his mom cooked the best meth in the valley, according to the troopers.

During a 2003 bust at a house outside Wasilla, officers discovered five children living inside, all younger than 8 years old.

The calls about meth to children's services in Wasilla accounts for as many as 40 percent of the agency's total monthly child protection calls.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reality vs Rhetoric...

I couldn't say it better --

The GOP Loves the Heartland To Death - WSJ.com
the red-state myth that Mrs. Palin reiterated for her adoring audience owes far more to the venomous spirit of Pegler than it does to Norman Rockwell.

Small town people, Mrs. Palin went on, are "the ones who do some of the hardest work in America, who grow our food and run our factories and fight our wars." They are authentic; they are noble, and they are her own: "I grew up with those people."

But what really defines them in Mrs. Palin's telling is their enemies, the people who supposedly "look down" on them. The opposite of the heartland is the loathsome array of snobs and fakers, "reporters and commentators," lobbyists and others who make up "the Washington elite."

Presumably the various elite Washington lobbyists who have guided John McCain's presidential campaign were exempt from Mrs. Palin's criticism. As would be former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, now a "senior adviser" to the Dickstein Shapiro lobby firm, who hymned the "Sarah Palin part of the party" thus: "Their kids aren't going to go to Ivy League schools. Their sons leave high school and join the military to serve our country. Their husbands and wives work two jobs to make sure the family is sustained."




Generally speaking, though, when husbands and wives work two jobs each it is not merely because they are virtuous but because working one job doesn't earn them enough to get by. The two-job workers in Middle America aren't spurning the Ivy League and joining the military straight out of high school just because they're people of principle, although many of them are. It is because they can't afford to do otherwise.

Leave the fantasy land of convention rhetoric, and you will find that small-town America, this legendary place of honesty and sincerity and dignity, is not doing very well. If you drive west from Kansas City, Mo., you will find towns where Main Street is largely boarded up. You will see closed schools and hospitals. You will hear about depleted groundwater and massive depopulation.

And eventually you will ask yourself, how did this happen? Did Hollywood do this? Was it those "reporters and commentators" with their fancy college degrees who wrecked Main Street, U.S.A.?

No. For decades now we have been electing people like Sarah Palin who claimed to love and respect the folksy conservatism of small towns, and yet who have unfailingly enacted laws to aid the small town's mortal enemies.

Without raising an antitrust finger they have permitted fantastic concentration in the various industries that buy the farmer's crops. They have undone the New Deal system of agricultural price supports in favor of schemes called "Freedom to Farm" and loan deficiency payments -- each reform apparently designed to secure just one thing out of small town America: cheap commodities for the big food processors. Richard Nixon's Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz put the conservative attitude toward small farmers most bluntly back in the 1970s when he warned, "Get big or get out."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Palin is an idiot

Anyone can govern a state where the biggest budget battle is "how big a rebate check should we give our citizens this year?" ...

Most govenors spend their time battling it out over spending priorities -- in debate with the legislature. So how hard can it be to fund all your initiatives and still have to "decide" how much to give every man, woman and child in the state?

Besides - she actually thinks creationism is worth "debating" along side evolution as a viable alternative "theory"...

On Aug. 29, the Boston Globe reported that Palin was open to teaching creationism in public schools. That's true. She supports teaching creationism alongside evolution, though she has not actively pursued such a policy as governor.

In an Oct. 25, 2006, debate, when asked about teaching alternatives to evolution, Palin replied:

Palin, Oct. 25, 2006: Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject – creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.

Sorry folks: She's an idiot. Maybe we should also debate that the One Tree supports the world as Odin taught us centuries ago... Or that Joe Smith really did find gold plates in NY -- and that Jews migrated to North America about 800 years ago where they set up a civilization!!

There is simply no room for such non-sense in science class. There is no evidence for "creationism" at all... to give it any credence undermines children's understanding of what science is all about.

Believing this stuff is akin to believing the world is flat.

Here's another example -- she doesn't know anything about finance -- even less than I do:

Ignorance is bliss, which perhaps explains Gov. Sarah Palin being so confidently wrong about the root cause of the federalization of most of the nation's mortgage market. But what is Sen. John McCain's excuse? Both act as if the financial meltdown of the U.S. economy has nothing to do with the policies of the political party they represent—but she at least may not know any better.

Referring to the government's bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Palin opined that the two had "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers," displaying abysmal ignorance of the fact that only now will those privately owned banks become a huge taxpayer obligation, as the federal government takes them over. Nor can the meltdown of home values be traced to those two beleaguered institutions, because they did not make the original subprime mortgage commitments.

The housing bubble was the result of the Ponzi-scheme antics of those other financial entities: commercial banks, stockbrokers and hedge funds, which were allowed in a GOP-deregulated market to get into the "swap" business. Through the rampant reselling of loans, the obligation to collect on a loan was divorced from the act of selling it in the first place, so who cared if the recipient of the loan was not at all qualified or the appraisal of the property value was inflated, as long as the paper was traded away, or insured, before the moment of foreclosure?

Fannie and Freddie essentially operate as nearly completely deregulated financial "repackagers"... And while their CEO's are getting 9-14 Million in golden parachutes, we (the tax payers) are gonna have to pay for that lack of Federal oversight... But Palin wants to either 1- make you think it's gov inefficiency that created the problem-- or 2- she DOESN'T know what she's talking about.

Why in the world do people want a house wife one step away from the presidency?



Friday, September 05, 2008

Red state red-ass...

Conason points out the obvious about Palin's daughter's pregnancy...

Truthdig - Reports - Why Bristol’s Pregnancy Matters
...let us first stop pretending that this is good news. There are excellent reasons why we discourage teenage pregnancy and motherhood, and none of them have disappeared simply because the Republicans are about to put Sarah Palin on their ticket.

Adolescents are rarely prepared to take on the challenges of raising a child. Often they drop out of school as a result, and usually become dependent on their own parents for support (which may be complicated for a family whose mom is running for vice president). Pregnancies in adolescence are high-risk, and the babies born to teenage mothers tend to have more illnesses during their first year of life. Teenage marriages—whether or not they occur because of an unplanned pregnancy—have a tendency to work out poorly, too. ("I don’t want to have kids,” noted Bristol Palin’s prospective husband, Levi Johnston, 18, on his MySpace page, according to the New York Post, and at his age, why would he?)

But such is life in the red states, where sensible sex education and availability of contraceptives are discouraged for adolescents, even though they are just as sexually active as teenagers everywhere else. Despite the supposed religious purity of the evangelical right-wingers who today regard themselves as the base of the Republican Party, rates of teenage pregnancy and divorce tend to be higher in their domain than elsewhere in America. To the extent that their values would dominate for another four years of Republican rule, those pathologies can be expected to prevail. During the past four years of the Bush administration, teen pregnancies have increased for the first time since 1990, when they began a 14-year decline.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pander above policy

I find it interesting that the "experienced" candidate now obviously puts pandering to women and evangelicals above the country... McCain's pick for VP demonstrates just how far he's come from the time in the senate he spent fighting budgetary pork. Now he's adding pork to the ticket to try an garner a few extra votes.

The sad truth is that it may work.

Mr. McCain now has an undereducated hockey mom from Alaska as his "backup". Considering his age (72), the odds that Mrs. Rapture will be swept into office during a McCain term is not insignificant.

What is it with American's and the desire to have "someone like me" in the Oval office?

When average isn't good enough - Los Angeles Times
Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the “Who would you like to have a beer with?” poll question in 2004, and won reelection.
While Obama has a similar lack of government experience, he at least appears to be educated -- and he does have a history of working in the community. Palin apparently believes the earth is only 6000 years old:
Many McCain supporters have written to say that (1) Obama is also unqualified (or even less qualified than Palin) and (2) I have shown myself to be a hypocrite by not objecting to Obama's religiosity. Briefly: My criticism of Palin should not be construed as uncritical acceptance of Obama. Needless to say, I find Obama's religious pandering repulsive. The suspicion that he is pandering, out of obvious necessity, and not quite as religious as he makes out, is somewhat comforting, however. But even if Obama were precisely as religious as he appears, he is not a Creationist, Rapture-Ready blockhead. Palin, by all appearances, seems to be one. This is a difference worth noting. Whatever you may think of his politics, Obama is very intelligent and reasonably well educated. Palin thinks the universe is 6000 years old. Unfortunately, I wrote my article before some of the most disturbing signs of her religious extremism came to light.
My concern is not that Mrs. Palin is a woman. My concern is that she is a totally unqualified and poorly educated woman who was added to the Republican ticket as a token woman (and Creationist wacko).
Pass the beer and pretzels... the popularity contest for president is getting into full swing. And it looks like the wacko's have their fresh meat.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The unlearning...

Vaccine-wary parents spark public health worry - Kids and parenting- msnbc.com
In Ashland, nearly 30 percent of kindergartners have been issued exemptions for some or all of the vaccines required by state law, a rate seven times the rest of the state and about 12 times the rest of the nation.

Why does it seem that people who should know better put their faith in anecdotal evidence and superstition when hard data and science is available.
Skeptical of government mandates and leery of feared links to disorders
from asthma to autism, parents say they’re exercising their rights to
protect their kids from risk. But health officials say there’s no
question that the risk of vaccination is far outweighed by the benefits
of inoculation, and that those who don’t immunize endanger not only
their own kids, but also the collective resistance that keeps everyone
else safe, too.

“When more than 10 percent of a community opts out of vaccinations, it
leaves the entire community at risk because germs have a greater chance
of causing an epidemic,” said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas,
pediatrician who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While there is an acknowledged risk with almost any vaccine, the statistics show that it is far less than that of contracting these diseases. This generation of parents simply doesn't know what it is like to have a toddler contract whooping cough... one of the leading causes of vaccine preventable deaths world-wide.

With lower vaccination levels some of these nearly eradicated diseases seem to be making a comeback...

In South Whidbey Island, Wash., this summer,
Little League teams were eliminated from the regional All-Star
Tournament after an outbreak of pertussis. Overall, 88 people were
sickened in the Northwest community where one to two cases a year is
the norm. Health officer Dr. Roger Case demanded that the teams be
pulled, fearing they'd spark an epidemic among players across a wide
region. Low community vaccination levels likely were to blame for the outbreak, Case said.
Some people must simply learn hard lessons by seeing for themselves... Given all the progress mankind has made on the medical front, it would seem obvious to trust the science. But because science hasn't given us all of the answers (e.g. - why is my child autistic??) people grasp at the anecdotal (e.g. - it must be that vaccine...). Its a trait we all share as humans: we need reasons... we look for patterns even where the correlation is weak. We need some reason -- even a bad one. (Hence religion!)

Most of the time it's harmless, but in this case we could be subjecting a new generation of children to scourges that we figured out how to lick more than 50 years ago...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The government we deserve...

We're getting it... In spades.

While the headlines scream about where various republicans and democrats are putting their penises THIS kind of shit continues to go on:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-08-12-mukasey-justice-department_N.htm

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Tuesday said former Justice Department officials will not face prosecution for letting improper political considerations drive hirings of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers. ...

But, Mukasey told delegates to the American Bar Association annual meeting, "not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws."

For nearly two years, top advisers to Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists, an internal investigation concluded last month.

The federal government makes a distinction between "career" and "political" appointees, and it's a violation of civil service laws and Justice Department policy to hire career employees on the basis of political affiliation or allegiance.

Funny -- I thought breaking the law WAS a crime ... I'm so happy to know that our government resembles a third world crony dictatorship more and more each day... Can you hear it?? "Quick!!! We need another headline about sex to distract the proletariate while we continue to f@#ck the rule of law and representative government..."

This is the Justice dept... Not some gov agency where you stash political allies and lackeys... The whole thing smells. It's like the old soviet union where you had to be a card-carrying-commie to get a job in the government.

This is exactly what happens when you have arrogant, unprincipled leadership: Leaders that base their decision making on their internalized sense of right and wrong instead of respect for the constitution and the rule of law.

The sooner the entire mess of them are replaced with ANYONE the better we'll all be.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Beers says it all...

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
"It took seven years for the Bush administration's military commissions system to get its first conviction for a crime that is regularly prosecuted in federal court. And when it did, it was a driver who even the administration acknowledges did not participate in the planning or execution of any terrorist attacks. Surely there is a better way to protect America and bring terrorists to justice while adhering to the constitutional values that have kept us safe and strong for 200 years," - Rand Beers, President of the National Security Network and retired counterterrorism official.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Imperial Presidency...

Federal judge rules Bush's aides can be subpoenaed - Yahoo! News
A federal judge on Thursday rejected President Bush's contention that senior White House advisers are immune from subpoenas, siding with Congress' power to investigate the executive branch...
The ruling comes from a Bush judicial appointee... who further said "there's no legal basis for Bush's argument"...
He said the executive branch could not point to a single case in
which courts held that White House aides were immune from congressional
subpoenas.

"That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: The asserted
absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case
law," Bates wrote.


It would seem that the imperial presidency is finally on the way out: both literally and operationally.

How a group of elected officials considers themselves so far above the law is amazing to me... I only hope they are compelled to testify before Bush leaves office -- even if nothing significant comes of it, at least more information on the politicalization of this administration will come to the light of day.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Nixon Range...

New Low for Bush Approval - Behind the Numbers
New Low for Bush Approval

Another month, another new low for George W. Bush: Just 28 percent in the new Post-ABC poll approve of the way the president is handling his job. This marks a new career low in Post polling, and is the 40th consecutive month his ratings have been under 50 percent.

His negative rating has also hit a record, with 69 percent saying they disapprove of his job performance. And the percentage holding "strongly" negative views is up to 56 percent, another new high, and nearly fives time the number who "strongly approve."

I think the Fox News poll even had him around 27% ... I wonder what it would be without 911? Of course, he wouldn't have had the chance to screw up as magnificently as he has if it wasn't for the 01 terrorist attacks.

The truly amazing stat is that about 25% of of the populace still thinks he's doing ok

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Way of The Decider

Detainees’ rights debated as Guantanamo trial begins | csmonitor.com

Chock it up to the "Decider" once again:
The first war crimes trial to be held by the United States since World War II began on Monday... After one day of trial proceedings, the defense was handed an important victory when the judge refused to allow the prosecution to enter evidence that was obtained under duress in Afghanistan.

...the judge declined to suppress admissions made by Hamdan after he arrived at the U.S. military prison here, ruling that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to Hamdan and that "no coercive techniques influenced" what he said. Allred ruled, however, that to use the admissions, prosecutors must produce Hamdan's interrogators to explain the conditions under which the questioning took place.
And rightly so... I believe all prisoners should be treated ethically and fairly. Regardless of their crimes. Our morality shouldn't depend on the actions of others and that's exactly what you have with this administration: some crimes just warrant 'enhanced interrogations -- bull shit.

And while we know that there are many people interred at Gito that need to be released -- having been transformed into ready-recruits for radical fundamentalists after their multi-year 'vacations' -- I don't doubt there are many dangerous people being held there. The problem is, this administration has likely made their continued detainment and/or punishment highly improbably. The insane policy of not only locking up people indefinitely without charge or hearing... or torturing them for information... all of it again points to the Decider's lack of understand of any of the values enshrined in the Constitution -- or even basic law.

It short, we have a leader who’s legacy includes being asleep at the wheel on both 9/11 and in the aftermath of Katrina… who started a war in a country that wasn’t a threat… who instituted policies that 1- make it almost impossible to bring those who have & would do us harm to justice and 2- ensures that those who may not like us but haven't done anything are likely to take up arms against us.

I simply can't imagine a more inept leader -- he could not do more damage if he tried.

Can’t you just wait for the lecture tour to start?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dogma and Reason...

As the result of some comments on my last post I think its time for a lecture on religion vs reason.

It seems that many people accuse folks who espouse rational secularism as being as dogmatic as religionists. While it is true that I put my "faith" in reason, it is a completely different animal.

Religion derives its authority from revelation: usually an interpretation of ancient scripture or teachings. While most will argue that there are some lessons to be learned from these sources, most religionists assume that the text is somehow "inspired" and that we can not only learn from them, but that we should organize our life around them as the foundation of such things as morality, ethics and "right vs wrong".

The rationalist takes a different approach to life; in a phrase: "where's the data". I want to know why a course of action is right/wrong (beneficial/harmful)... I am skeptical: I at least need a credible line of reasoning.

As a rationalist, if new evidence comes to light... if a new argument is presented, well -- a previously held opinion should change.

One of the common arguments I encounter is the idea that rationalism isn't any better than religion: especially when you are talking about it's implications to society and politics. The old arguments about Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot immediately come up. I think I'll just quote Sam Harris here since he is far more eloquent than I:

People of faith regularly claim that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the 20th century. Although it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion--delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history or the moral dangers of intellectualism. ...

Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; to the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself--of which every religion has more than its fair share. There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

That is what I advocate: reasoned, skeptical thinking -- on any subject. In a word, science. If being "dogmatic" about that makes me equivalent to the religionist, well -- pass the wine and gimme an Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The best blog going...

If you haven't found it, you need to check out Kafir Girl's blog... Raised a Muslim, she's making her way thru the Quran and blogging about the "experience" ... Hilarious.

Needless to say she finds the religion and book completely ridiculous: and she says so in terms that might make a sailor blush...

Her latest post is about an aunt who got possessed by a jinn: people actually believe this stuff!! Hypothyroidism be damned!! It was a jinn in a tree!!!

Check it out: http://kafirgirl.wordpress.com/

Monday, July 14, 2008

Holy inquisition batman!

Catholic League: For Religious and Civil Rights
To protest student fees for religious services at the University of Central Florida (UCF), a student walked out of a campus Mass on June 29 with the Eucharist. Webster Cook, a student senator, finally returned the Host this past weekend.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue offered the following remarks today:

“For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage—regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance—is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.”
Holy shit batman!! Possible expulsion. "Justice"? Are you kidding me?

Just because a group of people believe this biscuit is sacred or something doesn't mean a CRIME was committed. The biscuit was given to him ... and there are no laws against offending someone based on their religious beliefs are there?

This country is built on free speech... even speech that infuriates others. If talking about "desecrating a cracker" can get you expelled we have truly lost our way.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More of the myth...

Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection - NYTimes.com
JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.
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Dominic Buettner for The New York Times

When David Jeselsohn bought an ancient tablet, above, he was unaware of its significance.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.

It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.

Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase.
Even if this and other archeological and historical finds demonstrate that the story of Jesus is a myth, the faithful will find a way to turn this into further 'proof' of the mythical character's god-hood.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The art of hypocrisy - how to speak out of boths sides of your mouth.

Obama disowns critique of McCain's military record - Yahoo! News
Democrat Barack Obama rejected a retired general's suggestion that Republican John McCain's military experience didn't necessarily qualify him to be president, as GOP surrogates lined up to label the remarks indecent and disrespectful.


Conservatives are experts at speaking out of both sides of their mouths... The latest case in point: They seem outraged at Gen W. Clark's comments about McCain's experience. I don't know, but I'd bet many of these folks were the same people that wore "purple band-aids" at the 2004 Republican convention denoting their contempt for John Kerry's service (and his purple hearts). The fact that those that served with him said he served bravely and honorably in Vietnam... the fact that he served in a combat zone, well - apparently that wasn't enough to earn him the title "patriot".

I guess you only have to respect the service of conservatives.

Quote for the day...

"Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?"

-- Bertrand Russell

Friday, June 06, 2008

Dawkins on science - TED

If you haven't discovered TED - Ideas worth sharing -- I suggest you check it out...

The site has videos and discussions on everything from entertainment to cosmology... by some of the best thinkers and doers of our time...

This video, by Richard Dawkins, is a good example -- check it out:




"The universe is queerer than we can suppose..."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Those Damn Activist Judges!

Anti-miscegenation laws - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Loving v. Virginia

The plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving

All bans on interracial marriage were lifted only after an interracial couple from Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving, began a legal battle in 1963 for the repeal of the anti-miscegenation law which prevented them from living as a couple in their home state of Virginia. The Lovings were supported by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Japanese American Citizens League and a coalition of Catholic bishops.

In 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving had married in Washington, D.C. to evade Virginia's anti-miscegenation law (the Racial Integrity Act). Having returned to Virginia, they were arrested in their bedroom for living together as an interracial couple. The judge suspended their sentence on the condition that the Lovings would leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. In 1963, the Lovings, who had moved to Washington, D.C, decided to appeal this judgment. In 1965, Virginia trial court Judge Leon Bazile, who heard their original case, refused to reconsider his decision. Instead, he defended racial segregation, writing:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.[16]

The Lovings then took their case to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which invalidated the original sentence but upheld the state's Racial Integrity Act. Finally, the Lovings turned to the U.S Supreme Court. The court, which had previously avoided taking miscegenation cases, agreed to hear an appeal. In 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama in 1883, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that:

Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Sound familiar?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Great Gay Debate... why?

Gay marriage...

For some reason I cannot fathom many still consider it an "issue" ... and an institution that need "protecting". I guess I've completely missed the boat because I don't understand: if the government can decide that "this couple" can have these rights, but "that couple" can't -- how is that "protecting" anything?

If I marry another man -- how does that in ANY WAY effect a heterosexual couples marriage?

Many people also seem to forget our government previous efforts to "protect" marriage by legal barring interracial marriage (again - the populace, thru our elected representatives, felt it necessary to do this). The results were abominable laws like the Virginia "Racial Integrity Act".

All of the arguments I've heard against gay marriage are essentially re-hashes of those old ones: "marriage is for 'us' -- and we don't want the concept contaminated by 'your version' of love".

That's what the California Supreme Court said when it ruled that gay couples should have the right to marry as a matter of basic equality. Before you could say "Jonathan and Andrew request the honour of your presence," opponents were suggesting that civilization would crash and burn if two guys could register at Pottery Barn and raise kids in a ranch house.

I think it all comes down to this: many people don't like the idea of two men (or two women) shacking up... Marriage legitimizes these relationships and that idea scares people. The "protect marriage" argument is simply code for "these relationships aren't natural -- they gross me out -- I don't want them recognize" ...

I could be wrong -- but someone has to explain to me what -- exactly -- is being protected.

Capt Fogg put it best in his blog:
Regardless of the now apparently reduced sanctity of my own marriage [referring to the Calif ruling], I continued to wait for my dear wife to have her X-ray with undiminished dedication.

Sanctity, of course is indeed a subject that our Federal Constitution excludes from the business of government. Establishing religious rules or laws based on religious rules is specifically forbidden and not applying any laws in a discriminatory fashion, whether based on religious taboos or not, has long been established in the law. What does CNN mean to imply here: that we should get rid of that nasty secular Democracy thing so we can all be holy? What else can we infer?
Lets just move on... This should be a non-issue in a liberal, secular democracy (that is where we live right?)...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stuff we already knew...

Scott McClellan: Inside the Bush White House - History and politics - MSNBC.com
It was the decision to go to war in Iraq that pushed Bush’s presidency off course. It was a fateful misstep based on a confluence of events (the shock of 9/11 and our surprisingly — and deceptively — quick initial military success in Afghanistan), human nature (ambition, certitude, and self-deceit), and a divinely inspired passion (President Bush’s deeply held belief that all people have a God-given right to live in freedom). For Bush, removing the “grave and gathering danger” that Iraq supposedly posed was primarily a means for achieving the far more grandiose objective of reshaping the Middle East as a region of peaceful democracies.

History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided — that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.

Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake. But in reflecting on all that happened during the Bush administration, I’ve come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made — a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.

But this time it's coming from a Bush insider: someone he brought with him to Washington from Texas.

He appears to paint the picture I've (and many others) have already seen: one of an incompetent yet self-confident leader who 'decides' on instinct.

But, McClellan said, Bush's unwillingness to admit mistakes and
belief in his own spin contributed to turning the president into "not
quite the leader I once imagined him to be." He faults Bush for a "lack
of inquisitiveness" and "a degree of self-deception that may be
psychologically necessary to justify the tactics needed to win the
political game."

Bush "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," McClellan writes.

Only 7-8 more months... But the damage will be with us for a generation.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Still in the closet...

Organization Representing Military Personnel Urges Caution to Service Members Seeking Gay Marriage
While California and Massachusetts are the only two states where same-sex marriages are permitted, several other states and the District of Columbia provide other types of recognition for same-sex relationships, conferring legal rights and benefits similar to marriage. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," however, prohibits service personnel from entering into "marriage or attempted marriage," and service members who do so face dismissal under the law.

"Before my husband and I decided to marry in Massachusetts, I had to sit down and ask myself which is more important, love and marriage or my career in the U.S. Army," said retired Army Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Schmalz. "So I left the Army, and took with me my twenty-five years of experience, so that I could get married and start a family. It is a choice I never thought I would have to make and a choice that no American patriot should ever have to make."

Maybe justice is blind...

The Associated Press: Federal court rules against military gays policy
The military cannot automatically discharge people because they're gay, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in the case of a decorated flight nurse who sued the Air Force over her dismissal.

The three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not strike down the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But they reinstated Maj. Margaret Witt's lawsuit, saying the Air Force must prove that her dismissal furthered the military's goals of troop readiness and unit cohesion.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of the ridiculous policy towards gay in the military...

Witt joined the Air Force in 1987 and switched from active duty to the reserves in 1995. She cared for injured patients on military flights and in operating rooms. She was promoted to major in 1999, and she deployed to Oman in 2003 in support of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

A citation from President Bush that year said, "Her airmanship and courage directly contributed to the successful accomplishment of important missions under extremely hazardous conditions."

Her suspension and discharge came during a shortage of flight nurses and outraged many of her colleagues — one of whom, a sergeant, retired in protest.

"I am thrilled by the court's recognition that I can't be discharged without proving that I was harmful to morale," Witt said in a statement. "I am proud of my career and want to continue doing my job. Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The right to die...

A New Fight to Legalize Euthanasia - TIME
Should we be allowed to determine when we die? Euthanasia may be an issue long debated in the U.S., but thus far voters in only one state, Oregon, have legalized the practice of physician-assisted suicide. But a popular former governor is determined to make Washington State the second this November.
...
More than 80% of American adults agree with Gardner, a new report shows. Another two-thirds support laws similar to Oregon's, which give people the "right to die" through physician-assisted suicide, according to the survey of 1,070 Americans released May 15 by ELDR Magazine, a publication aimed at senior citizens. More than 80% of respondents also said that, if terminally ill and in pain, they would want to be made unconscious even if it hastened death. "A painful or prolonged death is something everyone worries about," said Dave Bunnell, ELDR's editor.

Yet something else the religious right has wrong: a terminally ill person has the right to decide how and when to end his life. Its a personal decision -- and not something government has the right to prohibit. Restrict, maybe -- but not prohibit.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bush's disapproval rating worst of any president in 70 years


President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.
It's still higher than I would have thought... More than 1-in-4 actually think he's doing "ok"?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Einstein's god

Einstein's musings about religion sells for $400K - Yahoo! News
The letter was written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954, a year before Einstein's death. In it, the Einstein said that "the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."
More importantly it should put to rest the noises the religious people make about Einstein being Christian... I've had to "explain" on several occasions that his references to "god" were always couched in terms that imparted his wonder of the natural order -- and had nothing to do with the god of the bible.
Unfortunately, like most who "believe", my arguments didn't dent the armor of faith.

Vatican Hedges Bets, Says “Aliens Are Our Brothers”

He compares the potential multiplicity of life forms in the universe to that here on Earth, and goes on to speculate that such alien life forms could even be “free from Original Sin … [remaining] in full friendship with their creator.”

Hollywood couldn't do better!I guess the Vatican is trying to stay ahead of science... and the eventual discovery of ET. It amazes me what religious folks can pull-out-of-their-asses... with no basis in reality what-so-ever.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The old stories are the best...

The Brick Testament -- For those that haven't seen this yet, the Brick Testament is a great introduction to some of the most interesting stories in the bible.

I've linked to one of my favorites... the story of the Levite and his concubine...

Give a read. You can find the complete biblical text here... just in case you think the lego version embellished.

One warning tho -- if your the type of person who doesn't want his/her kids reading Mark Twain you should think twice about letting them read some of these stories...
Maybe someone can explain the lesson here: its completely lost on me.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Why believe god exists?

A quick excerpt from a civil debate on the existence of god -- between two learned men...
It does seem that we have come to an impasse. We agree that God’s existence cannot be proven or disproven, and that those who think it can are the dogmatic extremists on both sides. Maybe God steps into our space-time, maybe he doesn't. Who knows? An invisible God is indistinguishable from a nonexistent God. How can we tell the difference? One answer comes to mind from a bumper sticker I once saw: Militant Agnostic: I don’t know and you don't either.

So I have one final question for you: why believe in God at all? Why not just be an agnostic, in the original sense that Thomas Huxley meant when he coined the word in 1869: "one who holds that the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown and so far as can be judged unknowable, and especially that a First Cause and an unseen world are subjects of which we know nothing." Here I am reminded of Sir Peter Medawar's description of science as the "art of the soluble." If science is the art of the soluble, then belief in God is the art of the insoluble. So why believe?
Give it a read...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Muslim madness - again...

Sam Harris: Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks - Politics on The Huffington Post
Geert Wilders, conservative Dutch politician and provocateur, has become the latest projectile in the world's most important culture war: the zero-sum conflict between civil society and traditional Islam. Wilders, who lives under perpetual armed guard due to death threats, recently released a 15 minute film entitled Fitna ("strife" in Arabic) over the internet. The film has been deemed offensive because it juxtaposes images of Muslim violence with passages from the Qur'an. Given that the perpetrators of such violence regularly cite these same passages as justification for their actions, merely depicting this connection in a film would seem uncontroversial.

Of course, there were immediate calls for a boycott of Dutch products throughout the Muslim world.

There have also been isolated protests and attacks on embassies, and ubiquitous demands for Wilders' murder. In Afghanistan, women in burqas could be seen burning the Dutch flag; the Taliban carried out at least two revenge attacks on Dutch troops, resulting in five Dutch casualties; and security concerns have caused the Netherlands to close its embassy in Kabul.

Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for "seeking to inflame" the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

And there's the problem: Muslim's can kill and maim in the name of their religion. There is no serious outrage coming from Muslim community. If their is, it is definitely drowned out by calls for jihad and blood. But when the west points out that Muslims indeed commit atrocities in the name of their religion, its as if none of it really happened...

The world has to grow a pair: call a spade a spade... Religiously motivated violence is at the core of the turmoil in the middle east... on both sides: Arab and Jew. This backwards religion from the dark ages is responsible for the brutal oppression of women, for prescription of clerical rule based on irrelevant and idiotic "law" and not least of all the glorification of martyrdom. The more people that speak out against this irrationality the better.
There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for "racism" and "Islamophobia."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Internal turmoil...


How McCain Lost in Pennsylvania - New York Times
...in Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn't just tell pollsters they would defect from their party's standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a G.O.P. primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party's nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That's more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.

For all the noise about democrats not supporting each other, the news has taken little notice of the republicans who aren't supporting McCain. Despite the noise from the press, I doubt dems will not support the ticket even if their candidate isn't on top... However, I don't think that's true of republicans: especially the "values voters"

Whoever gets the democratic nomination will win ... even if its Hillary (whom most conservatives hate - in a visceral sense)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dogmatism - there is a good kind...

I seem to get into a recurring argument with another blogger regarding my distain for religion -- and 'faith' in particular. It seems this person considers my advocation of reason and logical deduction to simply be another form of dogmatism.

Maybe it is...

But there's a simply fact that I think such people overlook: there are good beliefs (dogmas?), and bad ones. Good beliefs have a demonstrable connection to the world we live in... they attempt to explain and/or model reality in a useful fashion that - for all we can tell - appears to reflect external reality. From such deductions we can usually plan our interactions with the world in a logical way: i.e. - we can reason that walking off a cliff is not going to end well; we can use our insights into fluids, gravity, friction and energy to build an airplane. We can also use the process to deduce behaviors that will make us happy (e.g. - forming congenial bonds with one another is more likely to lead to 'happiness' than starting a feud).

Bad beliefs on the other hand aren't grounded in demonstrable reality. They may appear to serve a useful purpose - and that in itself isn't "bad" for society or the individual. For instance, believing in Santa Claus doesn't necessarily harm children. However, a life-long belief in Santa is considered to be abnormal behavior. Why? It isn't harmful right?

Such a belief is not supported by evidence and isn't "rational" given what we know about the universe we inhabit. Sustaining such a belief indicates that the belief holder really doesn't have a grasp on the mapping between what he observes (day-to-day) and what is fanciful (i.e. - imagined and maybe pleasant, but not supported by observation or logical deduction). What does that mean? It means he is failing to apply the experience and input from his life and formulate it in a consistent way. None of us are have perfectly consistent world views. But the hallmark of a rational/sane person is that he tries to reconcile the two - using (again) reason and evidence based logic. Those who don't do this are most often labeled "insane".

Anyway, if this Santa-believing-behavior exhibits itself not only in a 'self-delusional' way -- but informs the persons public interaction we quickly discount this person from positions of authority in our society: e.g. - Imagine electing someone to public office who thought Elvis is alive and well...

Hence we arrive at the crux of my problem with religion -- it not only propagates "bad" ideas, it does so in a way that informs public policy and enters our public debate. That's fine, but when you try to call people who have such ideas 'irrational' or simply 'stupid' you get your hand slapped. Somehow bad ideas that have been around for a long while under the banner of "faith" have become protected. Sam Harris put it better than I:
Now, it just so happens that religion has more than its fair share of bad ideas. And it remains the only system of thought, where the process of maintaining bad ideas in perpetual immunity from criticism is considered a sacred act. This is the act of faith. And I remain convinced that religious faith is one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised. So we will, inevitably, continue to criticize religious thinking.
This is the crux of my argument: religion has more than it share of bad ideas and we should openly criticize them -- esp when they are informing public policy.

Lets recount a few of these bad ideas:

1- Condom use is a sin - even in sub-Saharan Africa where HIV is rampant.
2- The Jews have a god-given right to a patch of land in the middle-east.
3- A ball of 150 or so undifferentiated cells in a petri dish is a Human being and its interests must be protected.
4- The Earth is about 6000 years old and god created all of the species that now inhabit it.
5- Slavery is ordained by god.
6- Drugs (certain ones) are evil and must be banned.

All these religiously motivated ideas impact each of us to a degree: some more than others. None of them are good ideas. None of them are supported by ANY evidence what-so-ever. Yet many many people in our society (and elsewhere) use these "facts" to inform their decisions -- including a LARGE percentage of our elected leaders.

In rebuttal some say that religion and faith can also be used to refute these very positions. That is true: when you start with arbitrary belief you can bend it to whatever purpose you desire. Besides that being the problem, there is a simpler way: a straightforward analysis (where you imagine a loved one or family member in the slaves shoes) yields the conclusion that slavery is bad. Of course, some proffer other irrational and unsubstantiated beliefs (like black people are not really people) to justify their position... but again, asking for evidence and reasons for a conclusion is always the answer to such arguments.

It boils down to demanding intellectual honesty from people. How can you argue with that?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Life without Sharia...


The Associated Press: Basra's `dark ages' lifting as hard-line grip weakens
Basra's `dark ages' lifting as hard-line grip weakens By SAMEER N. YACOUB – 2 hours ago BAGHDAD (AP) — CD shops sell love songs again. Some women emerge from their homes without veils, and alcohol sellers are coming out of hiding in the southern city of Basra — where religious vigilantes have long enforced strict Islamic codes. The changes in recent weeks mark a surprising show of government sway — at least for now — after an Iraqi-led military crackdown that was plagued by desertions, ragged planning and ended in a virtual stalemate with Shiite militias in Iraq's second-largest city. But it's unclear whether the new tone in parts of Basra represents a permanent tilt toward the Iraqi government or just a temporary retreat of Shiite hard-liners challenging the current Baghdad leadership.

A good sign ... one that I hope will stick.

Like any group of thungs, the militia's make up only a very small percentage of the populace. But, of course, with weapons and training (from Iran) they can intimidate and oppress a much larger population.

Something will eventually have to be done about them... hopefully, not by us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Warren Jeffs and the FLDS

Some excerpts from Carolyn Jessop's FLDS memoir... Carolyn was born in a polygamist camp in Northern AZ... where she was married-off to a 50 year old when she was 18... and she was one of the lucky ones.

While obviously extreme, this is why people shouldn't foist ANY religion on children. Imagine indocrinating boys in elementry school on how to treat women (as done below) ...
clipped from www.slate.com

Jeffs, who is currently in prison for arranging the marriage of an underage girl, exercised extraordinary control over the community even while Uncle Rulon was still the nominal prophet, and eventually became the prophet himself, when Rulon died in 2003.

Page 195: Some of Carolyn's stepdaughters were married to Jeffs, and she feared his temper. She writes: "One day he brought one of his wives into the [school] auditorium, which was packed with boys. Annette had a long braid that fell past her knees. Warren grabbed the braid and twisted and twisted it until she was on her knees and he was ripping hair from her head. He told the boys that this was how obedient their wives had to be to them."

Pages 216, 223, 231, and 234: As Rulon's deputy, Jeffs banned the color red; movies, television, and the Internet ("except for business purposes"); clothing with "large prints" or plaid; immunizations; and sex not for procreation.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The worst of crimes...

Not only did they protect pedophiles, the church threatened anyone who exposed the secret with excommunications. Remembering these are believers, it means you have an organization threatening HELL to those who try to PROTECT children.

Can you even imagine a more evil organization?

Religion IS evil...



clipped from www.cbsnews.com
(CBS) For decades, priests in this country abused children in parish after parish while their superiors covered it all up. Now it turns out the orders for this cover up were written in Rome at the highest levels of the Vatican.
The document, once "stored in the secret archives" of the Vatican, focuses on crimes initiated as part of the confessional relationship and what it calls the "worst crime": sexual assault committed by a priest" or "attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals."
Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases "in the most secretive way...restrained by a perpetual silence...and everyone {including the alleged victim) ...is to observe the strictest secret, which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office...under the penalty of excommunication."

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