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."